As much as you may hate going into your backyard and stepping into a pile of stinking black-and-green goose droppings, taking matters into your own hands to escape their annoying presence might even cause you problems with the law.
Last month, a 56-year-old man from Woodbury, Vermont, had his hunting, fishing, and trapping license suspended for one year after he was convicted for shooting Canadian geese on his property with a high-powered pellet rifle. The defendant, who pleaded no contest to the charge, declared that he only wanted to scare the geese away from his property and had no intention of killing them.
Similar charges await three men from North Carolina, who killed five geese at the Pine Knolls Golf Course during the closed hunting season and without having a federal or state permit to kill the geese. One of the men, who was also the owner of the golf course, told the police that they were only trying to remove the geese from the course because they were a nuisance and damaging the golf course with their highly acidic feces.
Conflicts between people and Canadian geese usually arise when property owners are unable to prevent the birds from taking up residence each spring. Once geese have successfully established a nesting site, it is illegal to disturb, damage, or remove the nest and eggs from your property. Even if you manage to do it in a lawful manner, the geese will very likely rebuild one nearby, and they will likely return to the area in the following years in greater numbers.
Congregating geese can result in a number of problems. Damage to landscaping can be significant and expensive to repair, while large amounts of bacteria-laden feces often end up in ponds, lakes, and parks, causing soil and water contamination. Because they are active grazers, geese can rapidly turn lawns and golf courses into barren, dirt areas.
In Canada, as in many other countries, Canadian geese are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, and anyone who wants to legally shoot or chase geese away must possess a special permit from the Canadian Wildlife Service. There are, however, certain lawful – and effective – methods that can be used by homeowners concerned about feeding damage and the accumulation of droppings left by Canadian geese on their property.
Canadian Geese are grazers, and their diet consists mostly of short grasses such as those found in parks, golf courses, and lawns. They usually feed in open areas with direct flight access to lakes and ponds, using nearby beaches or yards as secure places for preening and loafing. The best approach to discouraging geese from feeding on your property is a combination of the following seasonal deterrent techniques:
Eliminate mowing. It’s a fact: Canadian geese prefer to eat short, succulent grass. Taller grasses are less palatable than turf grasses and can also be a hideout for potential predators, so geese will carefully avoid such areas. Stop mowing the grass adjacent to water bodies (at least 20 feet from pond shorelines) to encourage geese to find safer spots with better food resources. Big bluestem grass, Indian grass, mature tall fescue, myrtle, and ground juniper are some of the grasses and plants Canadian geese regularly avoid.
Discourage nesting with scare techniques. Create a hostile environment for the geese as soon as they arrive to deter them from establishing a nest on your property. Noisemakers, distress calls, and strobe lights are some short-term techniques you can combine with the use of trained dogs to scare the birds.
Discharge a firearm (only with a permit). After obtaining a special permit from the Canadian Wildlife Service, you will be authorized to use a firearm as a noisemaker to disturb and drive away the geese. However, you must first show proof that other methods have been used without success.
Sterilize eggs (only with a permit). This deterrent technique also requires a permit from the Canadian Wildlife Service. If the birds are currently nesting on your property, you can sterilize the eggs either by coating them with vegetable or mineral oil or by shaking them to destroy the embryo. This will cause the goose to incubate the eggs beyond the hatch date and to not re-nest.
Install temporary barriers. Installing low fences marked with Mylar tape or other highly visible materials can repel geese, especially broods (adults with goslings). While adults may be able to fly over the barrier, goslings won’t, and the adults will not leave their young behind.
A single pair of Canadian geese can become more than 50 birds in less than five years. Effective management and population control can help reduce the number of geese on your property and the extent of damage caused by them. Make sure to contact a licensed and experienced pest control professional in your area to ensure the removal of this pest from your property without breaking any laws.
About the Author
Daniel Mackie, co-owner of Greenleaf Pest Control, is a Toronto pest control expert well-known as an industry go-to guy, an innovator of safe, effective pest control solutions, and is a regular guest on HGTV. Mackie, along with business partner Sandy Costa, were the first pest control professionals in Canada to use detection dogs and thermal remediation for the successful eradication of bed bugs. In his free time, he is an avid garden