Canada Goose

To the average citizen a flock of Canada geese flying north is a harbinger of spring; but to parks and recreation professionals responsible for lakes, ponds, parks or open areas such as golf courses nationwide, it means another season of dealing with the increasingly pesky birds.

But they should take heart because they aren’t alone in the problem and there are ways to control it.

Back from the Brink

The Canada goose was once an endangered species, and according to a 2002 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, is one of North America’s greatest wildlife success stories.

In the early 1900’s, the Canada goose population in North America was nearly eliminated by unrestricted harvesting of eggs, commercial hunting and draining of wetland habitat. By 1960, however, Canada geese numbered 980,000 and by the year 2000 their numbers had increased to 3,734,500 according to the USDA report. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service currently estimates their numbers to be about 3.2 million.

This proliferation was created through many conservation methods including the granting of federal protection for the large bird. However, this success has also caused the bird to be on the most-unwanted list of many parks and recreation managers.

Setting the Stage

The nature of the parks and recreation environment creates a perfect match with the geese. The large birds can weigh up to 20 pounds, grow to three feet or more from head to webbed foot and have wingspans of 50-70 inches. They are commonly found in areas having mowed grass associated with a body of water.

Thus, parks adjacent to lakes or ponds, golf courses or athletic fields make a perfect home. The short, frequently mowed grass produces fresh growth of tender shoots, which geese thrive on. Plus, in many locations people add to the problem by feeding the geese bread, corn and other tasty treats. The wide-open spaces create a secure habitat because the geese can see any predator approaching; and in urban settings there are few if any predators. With digs like these, the geese have little reason to leave.

This has created another natural phenomena; the once migratory birds have gradually lost their urge and indeed, their reason, to migrate. There are now two broad classifications of Canada goose; migratory and resident – and the resident population is the one causing parks and recreation managers the greatest problems.

As geese begin to homestead, their offspring are born into a non-migrating environment. Generation after generation has become accustomed to staying in one place. Over time, many may have lost their instinct to migrate. The resident geese also serve as “decoys,” attracting migratory geese.

The Problem

The juxtaposition of geese and humans in recreational settings has created problems.

The Canada goose can eat several pounds of grass per day, which equates to an equal amount of excrement daily. Multiply this by a flock of 100 geese, which is not uncommon and the volume of waste becomes significant. In addition, they can over-graze areas creating erosion problems.

In the wild, this isn’t a problem. But it’s a significant problem in places where children play, often barefooted, and where people picnic, walk or exercise.

Geese are a nuisance because of their droppings, aggressive behavior and noise, but they may also represent an environmental threat or risk to human health and safety, according to a study by the University of Wisconsin extension service.

The goose droppings contain nitrogen, which can leach into ponds or lakes and lead to excessive alga growth. Taking a stroll in a park frequented by geese can be akin to strolling through a minefield. In addition, children playing barefooted in parks can step or fall in droppings. And if it gets on their hands it will ultimately end up in their mouth.

According to the Wisconsin study, high concentrations of geese increase the possibility that avian diseases can be transmitted, creating the potential for massive bird die-offs. Disease organisms can spread to other species. Diseases such as avian influenza, salmonella and avian cholera can be transmitted in these circumstances. Transmission of disease or parasites from geese to humans has not been well documented, but the potential exists.

The mere size and nature of the geese also present a physical threat to humans, especially young children. The birds are very aggressive during nesting season and equally so at feeding time. The tall birds are eye-to-eye with toddlers and pre-schoolers and are known to attack them.

Page 1 of 3 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. Handling Fowl Birds
  2. Cre8Play–Project Portfolio
  3. Don’t Forget About The Fun Things In Life
  4. Little Details Equal Big Savings
  5. This-N-That
  • Columns
  • Departments