Managing Geese

Canada geese (Branta canadensis) are migratory waterfowl common throughout North America. Geese in urban areas can be undesirable primarily due to the large amount of feces they leave behind. One study (Manny et al. 1975) documented that each goose excretes 0.072 lbs of feces per day. This may not seem like a significant amount, but if 100 geese are present, that equates to over 7 lbs of feces per day!

Contributing to Algae Growth
Goose feces are high in organic phosphorus, which can contribute to excessive algae growth in lakes. Increased development in Lake County has inadvertently created ideal habitat for goose populations. Manicured lawns mowed to the edge of lakes and detention ponds provide geese with open areas with ample food and security.

Although there are several options for getting rid of geese, very few, if any, of them have shown long-term success. The best thing to do is prevent geese from residing on your lake in the first place by establishing buffered shorelines.

Hunting is one of the most effective techniques used in goose management. However, since many municipalities have ordinances prohibiting the discharge of firearms, reduction of goose numbers by hunting in urban areas may not be an option. Contact the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (217.782.6384) for dates and regulations regarding the waterfowl hunting seasons.

Egg Addling
Egg addling, or destroying the egg by shaking, can be used to reduce or eliminate a successful clutch. Eggs should be returned to the nest so the hen goose does not re-lay another clutch. Egg addling requires a state and federal permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (217.241.6700).

The capture and relocation of geese is no longer a desirable option because relocated geese may return to the same location where they were captured and there is a concern over potential disease transmission from relocated geese to other goose populations.

Dispersal/Repellent Techniques
Several techniques (harassment and chemical) and products are on the market that claim to disperse or deter geese from using an area. The goal with harassment is to frighten geese from an area using sounds or objects. Over time, these techniques may be ineffective, since geese become acclimated to these noise-making devices.

Another technique that has become popular is using swans to harass geese because swans are naturally aggressive in defending their territory, including chasing other waterfowl away from their nesting area. Since wild swans cannot be used for this technique, non-native mute swans (which are not as aggressive) are used.

Chemical Repellents
Chemical repellents can be used with some effectiveness. Several products can be sprayed to make the grass distasteful and forces geese to move elsewhere to feed. Another product has the additional benefit of absorbing ultra violet light making the grass appear as if it was not a food source. The sprays need to be reapplied every 14-30 days, depending upon weather conditions and mowing frequency.

Erecting a barrier to exclude geese is another option. In addition to a traditional wood or wire fence, an effective exclusion control is to suspend netting over the are where geese are unwanted. A similar deterrent that is often used is a single string or wire suspended a foot or so above the ground along the length of the shoreline. This technique will not be effective if the geese are using a large area as geese often learn to go around, over, or under the string after a short period of time.

Habitat Alteration
One of the best methods to deter geese from using an area is through habitat alteration. Habitats that consist of mowed turf grass to the edge of the shoreline are ideal for geese. Low vegetation near the water allows geese to feed and provides a wide view with which to see potential predators. In general, geese do not favor habitats with tall vegetation. To achieve this, create a buffer strip (approximately 10-20 feet wide) between the shoreline and any mowed lawn. Planting natural shoreline vegetation (i.e. bulrushes, cattails, rushes, grasses, shrubs, trees, etc.) or allowing the vegetation to establish naturally can create buffer strips.

Refrain from Feeding Waterfowl
Do not feed the waterfowl - There are a few "good things," if any, that come from feeding waterfowl. Birds become dependent on handouts, become semi-domesticated, and do not migrate. This causes populations to increase and concentrate, which may create additional problems such as diseases within waterfowl populations. Geese that are accustomed to hand feeding may become aggressive toward other geese or even people feeding the geese.