The transition to spring and autumn in New England is often marked by the classic V-shaped flight of Canada Geese overhead, as honk their way towards habitat that suits their needs. The common name Canada Geese (“Canadian goose” is technically incorrect) comes from their habit of migrating to the Arctic region to breed. The geese then fly south again before cold weather freezes open water.
In the past, Connecticut did not offer the correct mix of habitat requirements and food resources to meet the needs of breeding geese. Nowadays, lawns, parks, recreation and agricultural fields, along with the loss of natural predators encourage some geese to stay year round.
Nowadays, not all Canada Geese migrate. In urban and suburban areas, numbers of resident Canada Geese are growing, and so are nuisance and damage complaints. As a result, the emphasis has shifted from conserving the species to limiting further population growth.
Canada Geese feed on tender grass shoots and seedlings. Their prolific excrement can overload lakes and ponds with nutrients, causing algal blooms during warm weather months. They may also carry human pathogens, which can get on your golf shoes, beach blankets, etc. Short of turning the landscape back several hundred years, there are several things you might consider to discourage geese from nesting near your lake or pond. However, remember that, like all native birds, Canada Geese are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Throwing firecrackers or chasing geese with a motorized device, killing geese outside of the established hunting season, or disturbing nests without a special permit is illegal.
Never feed geese. Human processed food can harm geese by causing nutritional imbalance. In addition, it encourages larger flocks to build up, especially in parks. Geese can become extremely aggressive when protecting their young.
Permitted hunting. About 2 million Canada Geese are harvested each year in the U.S. (Source: Birds of North America.) Where safe and legal, hunting is an effective way to reduce resident goose populations. CT has a special hunting season for Canada geese designed to take place in fall BEFORE the migrant geese arrive.
Landscape modification. Geese prefer open areas near water. They also prefer to walk directly from the land to the water. A low fence (at least 30 inches high) along the water’s edge will encourage geese to go elsewhere. An un-mowed 6-foot wide buffer along the shoreline planted with tall native plants will also discourage geese. Certain grasses like fescues are less palatable to geese.
Repellants. There are several commercial products that when sprayed on lawns either produce a scent that supposedly repel geese or make grass taste nasty. Disadvantages of this method are the cost and need to reapply after rain or mowing.
Scare tactics. Air cannons, motion detector accessories, coyote decoys and trained dogs fall in this category. Devices that make a loud noise will frighten geese away temporarily, but be sure to check on local ordinances and inform your neighbors before trying them. A coyote decoy may discourage geese from landing in an area, but if the decoy is not repositioned regularly, the geese will cease to be frightened by it. They make a mangled goose decoy designed to scare geese off (by tricking them into thinking predators are in the area), but they do not work. Bird scare balloons are generally ineffective. Trained dogs have been used to discourage geese at areas like airports and golf courses.
Egg addling. Addling is stopping development in an egg. In combination with other techniques, egg addling is considered a humane way to reduce populations of resident Canada Geese populations. One method involves coating the egg with corn oil. Eggs are then put back in the nest so the parent geese will continue to incubate them. Breaking or removing the eggs from the nest would stimulate the geese to lay more. A special permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service is required before an egg addling program can begin.
For more information, see the HSUS Canada Geese Egg Addling Protocol at http://tinyurl.com/c9c7nd
CT DEP Wildlife in CT Canada Geese Fact Sheet at http://tinyurl.com/cors3e