Beauty or the beast: Canada geese spreading

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OAK HARBOR, Ohio – The state’s population of Canada geese continues to grow, and for the second consecutive year, more than 700 reports were made of conflicts between the large waterfowl and humans, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.

In 197 9, the first year Ohio conducted a statewide goose survey, there were an estimated 18,000 geese in the state, which were nesting in 49 counties, according to Steve Barry, state waterfowl biologist for the division.

Last year, the division estimated 1 20,000 geese were nesting in all 88 counties, a more than a 500 percent increase.

Back from extinction. Although native to Ohio, Canada geese were not common in the state during the first half of the 20th century. Efforts by federal and state wildlife officials beginning in the 1950s brought populations of Canada geese back from near extinction.

Increases in wetlands habitat and a proliferation of urban areas where hunting is not permitted has resulted in a present-day abundance of Cana da geese.

Barry said the recent popularity of office and apartment complexes with ponds surrounded by mowed grass has attracted high resident Canada goose populations in urban areas.

Protected species. All migratory birds, including Can ada geese, are protected by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service under the authority of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

It is a violation of state and federal law to harm or destroy any migratory bird, their nest, or their eggs outside of regular hunting seasons without a permit from the Division of Wildlife.

The most common problems reported by landowners concern goose feces, property damage, and aggressive behavior from the birds. “Documented goose complaints increased more than 400 percent between 1990 and 2000, averaging more than 400 annually,” said Barry. “In 2001, we received 732 complaints.”

What can you do? Technical assistance for non-lethal Canada goose control can be obtained by contacting any Division of Wildlife office or county wildlife officer.

Only non-lethal tactics can be implemented unless conflict problems are serious and landowners can document on-going efforts to deal with goose problems.

“There are a number of harassment tactics that can be u sed to scare geese from a property and prevent them from establishing a nesting territory,” said Barry, “If utilized as soon as geese arrive on site, noisemakers, fencing, reflective materials or a combination of tactics are usually quite effective in con vincing the geese to go elsewhere.

“You have to be as persistent and dedicated as the geese,” Barry said.

In many cases geese become accustomed to deterrence tactics, or once a nest is initiated they simply refuse to leave, causing the landown er to seek further assistance.

Don’t feed them. Landowners and urban residents are also cautioned to not inadvertently attract geese to their areas.

“People who feed geese and fertilize grass areas near ponds and streams are inviting the waterfowl to take up residence in the area,” Barry said.

Relocating adult geese is an ineffective solution, as nearly 60 percent of relocated adult geese return to urban areas within 18 months.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service is currently proposing a conservation order to control resident Canada goose populations and their related damage. Under this order, state wildlife agencies would be provided greater flexibility to deal with goose problems. Increased hunting opportunities and harvest of resident Canada geese would be provided through the authorization of additional liberalized hunting methods..

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