Handling Canada Geese In Wildlife Control Being A Protected Species
Stephen Vantassel here wildlife control consultant giving you a little other update for the wildlife. I wanted to talk today. Well now that spring is getting closer to us. Want to talk a little bit about Canada geese Canada geese are becoming a large problem in many parts of the eastern U.S. But they are beginning to be an issue in some Western states and even in the Midwestern states as well by Midwest. They’re already an issue places like Ohio and Indiana. I’m referring to the true Midwest which would be in Nebraska incense states of the Central State Central Plains.
Canada geese are federally protected
A very large bird and they are federally protected. So what can be done with them is limited. Now you may think well they’re hunted. Yes that’s certainly true. But those are hunting regulations that occur during the hunting season. And so those numbers are established. But like a pigeon or a House special you just can’t go out and whack Canada Goose just because you feel like it. So it has to be done either during the hunting season which typically is not the time when many people are having trouble with Canada geese or you have to get a permit. But there are some strategies to handle Canada geese. But before we get too far into the weeds here one to give a little bit of background on some of their basic biology. First let’s talk about how they’re to be named. It’s Canada geese not Canadian geese I got rebuked on that from my one of my employers when I use the word Canadian geese. No no no it’s Canada geese and so that’s going to be important. Typically their scientific name is Branta canadensis. That’s B R T A N T A.
Canada Geese The Giant Variety Dangers
Branta canadensis there are various subspecies but most of us are going to be dealing with Canada geese like the giant variety. So they are a large bird. Typically when you get to the ones that we’re normally seeing around urban areas. black and white with grey course they have that white throat patch that is they’re famous for their very elegant bird but they are big 3 to 15 pounds and they can cause a great deal of challenges for people not. just because they’re they can be noisy their theses of course you know the phrase crap through a goose is not is obviously there for a reason because geese. Put out a lot of excrement. There is no doubt about it. So they’ll eat a lot of green grass and then they’ll leave you these Tootsie Roll sized droppings that come out in various places and they can be actually a slip hazard when they’re on various surfaces. And so people have fallen and slipped on that feces ever. Now there is a small concern about disease with those feces. I mean certainly people that are walking through heavily contaminated areas can have.
They’ll get it on their shoes or what have you and that can be a potential problem. But the evidence for actual infections is low. There is some association of large numbers of Canada geese contaminating water particularly when reserve windier when they’re flocking over or floating in the areas of the reservoir where the where the water intake is that’s where it’s going out to be consumed by the public. So but the evidence is weak.
You kind of think it makes sense that a lot of Canada geese on your grass and people walking through it and then going home and walking into their house that there is probably a disease issue in there likely is. but it doesn’t seem to have risen to the level where a lot of people have identified it.
So I would think that specifically the people with weakened immune systems and there’s a lot more of those than what you realize they would have an issue so I guess the bottom line here as I’m saying is yes poo is bad. Don’t touch that. It’s one of my pet phrases. But understand we can’t really overstate the concern because it doesn’t seem to be a significant risk although we can’t say the risk is zero.
But certainly it’s unsightly and people have been injured as I’ve said earlier. with slipping on the droppings because they can be very very slippery. There’s also another problem with Canada geese that they don’t know they defecate in your yard. They can be noisy you can have a lot of feathers around the property. They can also be aggressive and that is once they begin nesting Canada geese defend their nests.
Like their lives depended on it. And I mean can they take out a human. No I mean the reality is if you know if you were having a great fight between a Canada goose and a human the human is going to win unless they are a total loser. I don’t know where they can’t even fight back.
But that doesn’t mean that people can’t be injured and possibly severely injured from a goose attack. There have been people who have been so frightened by the aggression of a geese course they’re not put punching back or kicking it or something where in their attempt to run away from the geese have actually fallen and broken bones particularly elderly people whose bones are more fragile are as obviously at a heightened risk of this and of course if someone is surprised they didn’t realize that the goose was nesting there and the goose just attacks them. You can get I poked in the eye you can get bites you can get hit with a wing.
So it could be quite emotionally traumatic. And then you break give bring in the whole issue of.
The Legal Realm In Dealing With Canada Geese
liability with you know as the owner of the property liable for this goose attack and then you start getting into the whole that whole legal realm. And so it’s really important for. you as a pest control or wildlife control operator to understand and sometimes when your client is not quite under understanding some of the risks with Canada geese that you might need to tell them there have been cases where Pete there have been some legal questions involved in this is I feel bad for the landowners because they’re in a Catch 22 Canada geese are protected. but then they’re required to sort of remove them because someone might be injured. It’s really can be really difficult for them to sort of navigate this and then you have the public relations issue because people like him the geese.
And so if they find out that the landowner or the business owner is in the process of getting those geese removed even if it’s a quote unquote non lethal Lee the blowback in that company can be enormous because people aren’t rational. Right. I mean so this can be an issue. So you need though it can be sensitive because this is what we call a charismatic megafauna. It’s a it’s an animal that a lot of people identify with. They like to have them around they think they’re pretty. I think they’re pretty but they often don’t recognize the downside of some of these Canada geese and this can be.
An issue. All right. So let’s so understand that those are some of the challenges with Canada geese.
Biology of Canada Geese
Let’s talk a little bit about their biology before we get into some other details. So they begin nesting at about age 3. Some will begin nesting at age 2. They often nest within 150 feet of water. But believe it or not they actually can elevate they actually contested an elevated position now typically their nests are on the ground. But they have been known to look to nest in trees. And they’ve even nested on people’s second floor decks and on the roofs of flat buildings.
So they’re adapting to an urban situation. And if they’re getting in large numbers they will adapt to what they did do because if they imprint if they imprint on the area if they’re born in an area and they’re able to imprint on that area they will return there every year.
This is one of the challenges with people well why don’t you just pick them up and move them well because it doesn’t work if they’re not removed at the right time they have to be removed very early in their lifespan because once the imprint they’re coming back. OK so this is when the challenge is plus Canada geese are getting so numerous in the United States. Where are you going to move them to.
So we’re running out of places to go. So this is one of the dirty little secrets that we have in America. So they defend their nests they mate for life. So the male and female goose and the gander mate for life and they defend their nest and territory vigorously now in heavy dense dense areas.
They may only be nesting six to ten feet away from another Canada geese. So you can imagine the critical mass that could take place. They lay eggs when the female begins laying eggs she lays one.
Every one and a half days and they don’t begin to sit on them until all the eggs are laid so they all hatch at the same time. The average clutch size. That’s how many eggs there would be in one season would be average would be five. And so think about the math here especially in urban areas.
If you start seeing. Twenty pairs of geese. that’s 40 geese at five.
Young. For those pairs. Now you’re getting the following year you’re going to be having 100 G’s. Now let’s say that they have a little bit of mortality of a 10 percent mortality. OK. Well then now they’re going to have someone with this in the 90s. Their next year and then each following year.
You’re going to they’re going to get a lot more mature and so you can imagine that the numbers can escalate very dramatically.
And so the research suggests that people don’t complain about Canada geese until the number reaches about 60. Once you start hitting 60 then people start realizing that there’s probably that there is an issue. and then it becomes a real problem because people become attached to them.
You can’t just simply remove one or two that becomes much more difficult because again in America our motto is we always wait till there’s a crisis before we do anything. Right. That’s just how we’re wired. So this is something you’re going to have to understand about your clients.
So even if there’s not a lot of goose work available in your area right now. It may behoove you to start preparing for that eventuality if you’re starting to see increasing numbers in my area. Here in Montana I’m starting to see goose numbers here and so I’m looking at something in a couple of years that things can get really out of hand here. So. Something to be thinking about.
Around June in the northern areas you. They begin. The geese begin to molt and they are flightless and part of that is to coincide with with them raising young and that’s going to be important because it eliminates part of your. What are some of your control methods because it doesn’t do any good to try to haze them when they’re molten because they can’t fly.
Now it doesn’t mean that none of them are able to fly. Sometimes a bird will be molting at a different time and maybe all of its wing primary feathers have not been removed so it can sometimes be a bit more mobile than you realize. But by and large they’re they’re grounded. And so you’re not going to use a frightening device during that time or when they’re raising young because that’s very very cruel so don’t do it.
Sort of some control strategies for Canada geese.
Well as we said earlier they are a protected species so anything that you’re doing has to be of a non-lethal nature unless you have a permit. Now recently in the last several years the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has established a program with states that are cooperating if memory serves where you can sign up online and get a permit to do what’s called Egg Adelaide. Now egg adlibbing is sort of an umbrella phrase that is used for when you are basically destroying. the next generation of Canada geese.
So what you would do is you would go online to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service get this permits everything’s done online. Find out if there’s any additional restrictions in your particular state but once you have this permit you were allowed to finesse in an area and you’d be able to go to those nests and basically either puncture the egg with a needle. That’s to prevent that egg from hatching or you would use corn oil.
To more oil the egg in that prevents the gas exchange because the chick that’s growing inside that egg is actually breathing oxygen that’s filtering through the egg shell and by using corn oil you’re actually preventing the exchange of oxygen so you basically suffocate the embryonic goose in the in the egg and you kill it that way. And why do you do this rather than just simply removing the eggs.
Well the reason is if you remove the eggs the female will likely less lay another clutch. If it’s early enough in the season. So this is why you don’t do that. Now what some people have tried to do is they’ll take maybe some plastic eggs or something and then remove and put those in this place. You’ll have to read the regulations and see what you’re allowed to do. But the goal is if you if the eggs are destroyed. she may relay and then you wasted all of you all of your time. Now understand it sounds pretty easy to do all this and it is but there is some risk involved with doing egg rattling.
Let’s talk about some of that so understand when you’re coming out to that to that nest that’s going to be aggressively defended so you’ve got to make sure you’re wearing enough clothes. I would recommend some sort of a jacket long sleeve shirt.
You want to be wearing some sort of safety goggles. You want to have a hat. You want to be sure you’re wearing long sleeve pants with some people even do as well carry the umbrella with them so that when the goose attacks it’s hitting the umbrella make sure it doesn’t have a long point on the end of it. You know you want to be sure it’s a flat umbrella but that you can guide that goose away. And then what you want to do is think of two person teams where one person can occupy some of the adults while the other person’s going in to address. The nest. You want to work quickly because it’s going to.
They’re going to come after you with everything that they’ve got because they’re a pretty aggressive bird and they are very protective of their of their nesting areas.
Move in move out. Keep you take your records. So at some people sometimes do as well at all. If there’s five eggs or Al four of them leaving one intact. So that way there’s always going to be at least one that’s going to come to maturity because again if the eggs get all rotten that’s going to be a problem. This is one of the reasons why many people prefer to do the oiling rather than.
The egg puncturing.
Now if you are going to do an egg puncturing you want a very thin needle but a sturdy needle.
You’re going need to be wearing gloves because you’d only get some of any infections from any type of the bacteria that may be associated with those eggs and geese are dirty. Let’s understand that. And you’re just going to you have a string on it and you’re just going to poke the one of the ends of that egg rattle Radelet around a little bit inside to make sure everything’s disturbed and then you’re going to put it back inside of the nest.
So that doesn’t break. Or you going to oil it. Some people would like to have a little bowl and they will have the oil in it and then they’re just going to smear that egg completely with corn or it has to be corn oil. I can’t be anything else. The permit only only allows corn oil.
As good as the method is that is. Understand that it doesn’t do anything to reduce the geese that are present on the location at that moment. So they’re don’t have to explain to your client that yeah we can do some egg paddling. It’s good to reduce the rate of growth of birds in that area because the problem is you’re not going to find all the geese. Your chances are you’re not going to find all the nests so you’re not going to be able to stop the growth. You’re just going to slow the growth down in fact there was a study in New York where they were doing egg paddling I think it was for 20 years and they finally got to the place.
Where the population was not. They stopped the increase after 20 years. So they were aggressive in there too. But again that was over a very large area wasn’t just a pond which is probably what you’re going to be hired for. But it was over very large areas. You can imagine the amount of work that was involved in doing that. So I’m not trying to throw a Gatling under the bus but you need to be able to explain to your client that egg Adeline has limits but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be used it should be used because it does prevent those eggs from maturing into adults over time. So that’s one option. Now what are you gonna do about the geese that are presently right there.
People need to act quickly and this is going to be a challenge for you because if the geese are becoming a problem and you’re able to do this before but before they molt you’re going to be thinking about doing some hazing no hazing can take place a lot of different things some people are using remote control boats some people using remote control aircraft anything that you’re doing there is just to to harass them sometimes you will have dogs a little bit more expensive you need to be doing techniques that doesn’t harm the geese but gets them to fly away that when you’re doing this it’s important to be sure that you’re not near an airport you’re not near a highway because if you’re frightening birds and they fly into the flight path of a plane or they go out onto a highway you could be creating a hazard for those two vehicles hitting birds or for aircraft hitting birds and so you have to keep that in the back of your mind.
Lasers can be effective on hazing geese particularly at night time or in low light periods where you can actually frighten them off off a pond at night.
Some people like to use more habitat control methods because the fact is geese like water with grass with low slopes just like us humans do. We like that as well wild geese like it’s what you do is you change the character of the pond in the embankment to get rid of that. So one of the ways would be the two large placed large stones along the embankment to make it steep. So it’s not just because geese like to be able to swim to the edge and then walk to the shoreline but with large boulders it makes that a lot more difficult. Some people will use fencing that could be only three or four feet tall and you just put fencing around the waterway. People say well how is that going to work. Why doesn’t the goose just simply fly over it. They will but they don’t like it and it really irritates them and it can be quite annoying. It’s sort of like the equivalent of if someone locked the door to your house every time you walk through the door someone locked it behind you. It would really begin to make you angry after a while of the same thing happens with geese.
Other things that can be done are putting in large bushes along the shoreline so that geese lack the ability to see straight clean lines areas where they’re feeding you want the grass to grow taller so you want to cut it at the highest height you can with your lawn mower you want to be sure that people are not fertilizing grass because fertilizing stimulates more growth. Geese love fertilized glass there’s grass there’s also certain varieties of grass that they don’t like that can be planted but again a lot of those things people won’t want to use because it’s going to take time to implement them.
Let me give you an example of some of those geese that I mean grass that geese like Kentucky bluegrass broken glasses new growth on Canary grass colonial bent grass perennial ryegrass quack grass red FSU. They tend to avoid grasses mature tall FSU periwinkle Myrtle parka Sandra English ivy hasta ground Juniper. So they are plants that they like in their plants that they don’t like. So you do want to plant things that they don’t like. You’d want to haze them as soon as they began to start using the area. You need to be sure you prevent people from feeding geese.
You would need to put up signs in hand and have it enforced. People are not feeding geese. Finally we’ve talked a little bit about frightening. You can use pyrotechnics if you have the permits to use pyrotechnics. You can use flashers you can put some people will extend wires across a pond and area to a to interfere with their flight flying onto a pond. You would elevate that above the water or even let let the cords lie in the water to interfere with them swimming on that place.
I knew a colleague. He basically had a small. He had some of his clients have very small ponds. I think they are probably only a couple of acres maybe he’s stretched a large rope across the middle of that pond. And then what he would do is he would go there during the day when the from the geese were out in the water and then lift that rope up and then slap it. on the water to create a big crack and that would frighten the geese away. So the idea is you’re trying to be a bad neighbor to these geese. So there are a lot of things that can be used but understand there’s no silver bullet.
The ultimate way when things get really really bad. You have to be thinking about lethal control and that’s what we call a goose roundup when during the flight.
Flightless season usually the flightless period when they’re molting around June 1st in the northern areas that extends on for several weeks as you basically have like a rodeo and you get a bunch of people and you basically herd the geese using fences into an area capture them and then take them away and euthanize them.
But that requires permitting and unfortunately a lot of states have been resistant to implement that policy even though they can do that with permission from the Fish and Wildlife Service. So put some pressure on your states and say hey why don’t we have. Why don’t you allow private applicators to be doing roundups in your state.
And we need more pressure to be brought to bear. Because geese have really had to pass for a very very long time and part of that is because of a it’s a legacy of the time when we didn’t have a lot of Canada geese.
But we’re at a point now where we have a lot of Canada geese they’re no longer migrating they’re staying in a location year round they’re not migrating south they’re staying in that urban area all year round. And that is a problem. And so that needs needs to be addressed.
So we maintain the appropriate levels of geese that people will tolerate and they’re safe for the environment safe for the community. But we need to have a reasonable control program for Canada geese. I hope this is helpful for you.
Publication on Canada Geese
Let me give you it. Let me give you a tip of a publication that’s available online for you if you wish to download it. I didn’t write it. It says it’s a little dated now it’s most published 1999 but the fundamentals of this document are still valid although some of the technologies have been improved since then again because we’re looking at something that’s 20 years old. So I’m not knocking it. I’m just saying is that it doesn’t. There is additional techniques and the principles that are refinements that have occurred since that time. But the fundamentals. are all in this publication. And it’s called Managing Canada geese in urban environments. A technical guide the authors are Arthur E. Smith Scott our craven and Paul D. CURTIS It was published by Cornell Cooperative Extension in 1999 and it’s available it’s only 44 pages long eight and a half by eleven. It’s illustrated it’s very well-written it’s not very technical it’s basically a how to saying try do this do this do this don’t do this this works.
Research shows this it will go through a variety of techniques for you. It will keep you from making a big mistake and doing something silly and it will give you a good foundation for doing for doing what’s necessary for controlling Canada geese for your clients who some of them are probably going to be feeling a bit desperate here pretty soon. Of course always feel free to reach out to me I love hearing from the pesky world. But that’s it for now in terms of candidate gays. Hope you can make some money on them. Hope you do it right. Because again people are watching and this is one thing where you might get some public relations that you don’t want to have. So be careful out there. Be respectful do everything by the law. And that should help you be protected there is a lot of crazies out there. Just be careful be discreet. I’m Stephen Vantassel wildlife control consultant. giving you information about the wildlife.
Back to you Frank.