Spring is just around the corner and with it the arrival of baby animals. So cute. So fluffy. So annoying?
Not everyone enjoys watching mother nature grow up so close to their home, favorite golf course or neighborhood park. In recent years, many Ohioans have felt this way about Canada geese.
Incidentally, now is the ideal time to goose-proof. Once Canada geese have nests with eggs or goslings, it’s too late to try deterrence strategies to minimize visitation. If you don’t want to share space with Canada geese this spring, you better get to it.
There was a time — well before I was born — when Canada geese were scarce. In fact, little to no geese were nesting in Ohio. Things changed in 1956 when the Ohio Division of Wildlife initiated a reintroduction program, bringing 10 pairs of Canada geese to three state-owned wetlands. Aided by federal and state protection, Canada geese populations dramatically rebounded. Today, it is estimated that Ohio is home to 100,000 geese spread across all 88 counties.
Wow, what a huge conservation success! So why would people be upset about hosting a couple of Canada geese and their goslings for the spring?
Well, they can create some major conflicts for landowners.
- Accumulation of feces. This is probably the biggest issue with housing Canada geese. Put simply, they poop everywhere.
- Degraded water quality. If you have a large number of Canada geese hanging around a stagnant body of water, pooping wherever they please, you should probably be concerned about the quality of water in your lake or pond. Water quality is compromised when rain washes the poop into the water. You’ll probably notice an excess of algae and submerged plants, which can deplete oxygen and cause a fish kill. Furthermore, goose poop carries pathogens Giardia and Coliform bacteria, which can cause illness in humans when it is accidentally ingested.
- Property damage. Geese are known for eating grass and, in some cases, landscaping. They can create bear spots and soil erosion. Repairing damage to grasses and ornamental plantings can get expensive.
- Attacking humans. Geese with goslings or eggs in their nest can get very aggressive. They will nip or hit people who get too close. Small children are particularly vulnerable to attacks.
- Automotive collisions. Most of us have had the experience of stopping and waiting for mama goose and her babies to cross the road. But Have you ever hit a goose, accidentally? At 11 to 13 pounds, a goose can cause serious damage to a vehicle when it is hit.
- Agricultural damage. Canada geese are more damaging to agriculture than any other waterfowl species. They graze on the plants and trample the emerging seedlings of virtually all grain crops.
Tips for homeowners
- Timing. If you want to eliminate your goose problems, strategies are best employed before geese build a nest, which can occur from late February to April in Ohio. Once geese have nests with eggs or have goslings, no strategy will work until goslings have fledged and adult geese have replaced their flight feathers.
- Feeding. To me, this seems kind of obvious, but feeding geese is a bad idea unless you never want to get rid of them. Canada geese quickly adapt to handouts and become reluctant to leave areas where food is provided on a regular basis. If you live in a residential development where you’re neighbor regularly feeds the geese, your problem will only get worse. Geese that are fed will eventually lose their fear of humans and begin nesting even closer to human residences. So tell Tom to knock it off and push for the creation and enforcement of a no-feeding ordinance.
- Vegetation buffers. When searching for an ideal place to nest Canada geese are seeking water bodies surrounded by large expanses of mown, cool-season grasses. However, if the visual line of sight between the water and the adjacent grass area is broken, geese will be deterred because they are uncomfortable not knowing what is on the other side of the tall shoreline vegetation. You can try wetland and terrestrial plants such as cattails, sedges, rushes, and warm-season grasses. Aim for a vegetation height of at least 2 feet and a zone width of 10 feet.
- Barrier fencing. When tall shoreline vegetation is not an option — probably not the golf course manager’s first choice — geese can be excluded from water with a barrier. Ohio State University Extension recommends surrounding the body of water with a barrier, composed of wire or string, that has at least two lines, one about six inches above the ground and the other 18 inches high. The two-line barrier prevents geese from ducking under or stepping over to reach the water.
- Repellents. Two different goose repellents are registered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. However, the use of repellents can get expensive, especially since the entire grass area needs to be treated. Methyl anthranilate (MA) and anthraquinone (AQ) are both naturally occurring chemicals that, upon degradation, leave no dangerous chemical residue. MA products make grass unpalatable to geese after application, while AQ products cause a slight stomach discomfort to the geese.
- Dogs. Any breed of dog can be effective at chasing geese away because they represent a natural predator that make geese uncomfortable. Additionally, geese don’t like to be herded, so continuous movement will eventually push them out of an area. Make sure to give the dog continual access to the flock, or at least 4 to 6 disruptions per day.
- Noise. Sudden, unexpected loud noises will scare geese enough to vacate an area. However, this strategy works best in conjunction with other strategies. You don’t want the geese to get used to a specific noise, so try to alternate noises rather than overusing one. Geese can be scared off by the regular use of equipment, ATVs, tractors, leaf blowers and air horns. Just be sure not to use the same one all the time. Distress calls have also been used with some success, but work best when they are used with a visual deterrent or predator decoy.
- Visual deterrents. Balloons, scarecrows, flags and Mylar tape can be used to deter geese from visiting. While one visual deterrent is ineffective, two or three different types per acre of field or water can be effective, especially when they are used with noise. To learn more about using visual deterrents to repellents geese, visit Ohio State University Extension.
- Predator decoys. Life-like predator decoys can be used to scare geese off. However, they work best when used with other deterrent strategies and have to be moved daily. If a decoy sits in the same place for too long, the geese will get used to it and it will become ineffective.
- Domestic waterfowl. Having domestic waterfowl, lets geese know that the area and body of water are safe to inhabit. Removing domestic waterfowl reduces your chances of attracting large numbers of geese.
Canada geese can be encouraged to abandon the pond, yard, golf course or park. Implement a plan between January and March and try multiple strategies in a rotation before nests are built.
If you’ve tried everything and are still facing an extreme situation, contact your county wildlife enforcement officer, who can issue special control permits.