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 Urban Geese

Increasing urban and suburban development in the U.S. has resulted in the creation of ideal goose habitat conditions- park like open areas with short grass adjacent to small bodies of water. These habitat conditions have in turn enticed rapidly growing numbers of locally breeding geese to live year round on golf courses, parks, airports and other public and private property.

In recent years, biologists have documented tremendous increases in populations of Canada geese that nest predominantly within the United States. Recent surveys suggest that the Nation's resident breeding population now exceeds 1 million birds in both the Atlantic and the Mississippi Flyways and is continuing to increase. In the Mississippi Flyway alone, the 1998 spring Canada goose population estimate exceeded 1.1 million birds, an increase of 21 percent from 1997. ( US Fish and Wildlife Service data)

Fast Facts About Giant Canada Geese

  • Protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act
  • Feed by grazing on succulent grasses and small plants
  • Weigh 12 pounds or more
  • Able to reproduce at 2-3 years of age
  • Eggs hatch in 28 days with broods averaging 4 goslings
  • Return to the same nesting and feeding areas each year

Common Goose Problems:

  • In parks and other open areas near water, large goose flocks denude lawns of vegetation and create an obnoxious mess with their droppings and feather litter.
  • Goose droppings in heavy concentrations can over fertilize lawns, contribute to excessive algae growth in lakes that can result in fish kills, and potentially contaminate municipal water supplies.
  • Geese have also been involved in a growing number of aircraft strikes at airports across the country, resulting in dangerous takeoff and landing conditions and costly repairs.
  • The main problem is having all those goose droppings on your lawn!

But Do Geese Really Harm Your Lake?

Some researchers think they do and some think they don't. In any case the geese probably are certainly contributing nutrients that help fuel excessive growths of algae and macrophytes.

The scoop on goose poop:
  • The average Canada goose dropping has a dry weight of 1.2 g (~ 0.04 ounces)
  • Average droppings per day ~ 82 g/day (dry weight), that's 2.6 ounces/day (about 1/3 cup)
  • Each dropping contains 76 % carbon, 4.4 % nitrogen, and 1.3 % phosphorus
  • Geese can defecate as many as 92 times a day (numbers reported range from 28-92)
  • What goes into a goose generally comes from within the watershed and what comes out also stays in the watershed (at least for resident Giant Canada geese).

(From Sherer, N.M. et al 1995. Phosphorus loadings of an urban lake by bird droppings. Lake and Reservoir Mgmt. 11(4): 317-327.)

Homeowner's Tips for Dealing with Urban Geese

It is that time again when geese will begin searching for nesting sites. If geese are not welcome on your property, here are some tips you can use to discourage their activities.

Prevention is the Key!

Make your property less attractive to geese

  • Don't feed the geese
  • Leave a 20-30 foot barrier strip of tall grass (6 inches or more) adjacent to lakeshore
  • Plant dense hedges or erect fencing near lakeshore areas to reduce access to your lawn
  • Check your property frequently for nest building activity in the spring
  • Remove any nesting materials found
  • Harass geese that frequent your property
  • Be as persistent as the geese
  • Some folks have tried stringing a wire or string about 10-12 inches high along their shoreline. The geese seem to avoid crossing the string and move on.

The Legalities of Goose Control*
(*Under federal law, state laws may be more restrictive, contact your state wildlife agency for more information)

What you CAN do

  • Harass the birds prior to nesting using noisemakers, dogs, or things like brooms or rakes
  • Remove accumulated nesting material (PRIOR TO NESTING)
  • Erect fences and barriers to keep geese off your property

What you CANNOT do
(unless in possession of a federal permit)

  • Injure, capture or kill geese (except under applicable hunting regulations)
  • Disturb geese on an established nest
  • Collect or destroy goose eggs

Useful Links

MN DNR Guide to Goose Problems
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Alaska Fish and Game Department-Homeowner's Guide to Goose Solutions
Canada Goose Web Page by Univ Minnesota Department of Fisheries and Wildlife
DNR HOMEOWNER'S GUIDE TO GOOSE PROBLEMS

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