Managing Human-Goose Conflicts in Urban and Suburban Areas
Canada geese reside year-round locally throughout much of Colorado, and large numbers of migrant Canada geese occupy parts of Colorado during the fall and winter. Canada geese provide valuable hunting and viewing opportunities, but, in urban and suburban areas, local concentrations of geese can lead to conflicts between geese and people. During established hunting seasons, the disturbance associated with hunting activity is an effective way to reduce goose use of specific locations. In suburban and urban areas, however, hunting is usually not an option, and Canada geese often create problems during the spring and summer. In these situations, the alternative approaches summarized below can be useful.
Canada geese are protected by federal and state laws. Non-lethal control activities (e.g., activities in which there is no direct contact with geese and that do not result in harm to geese, goslings, eggs, or nests) do not require federal or state permits (do check local ordinances), and most non-lethal activities can be conducted throughout the year (except using trained dogs for hazing—see below). Any activities that result in handling, damage, or destruction of geese, or their eggs or nests, require permits. The primary control activity conducted under available permits is egg and nest control of locally-breeding geese. This activity is usually conducted following, and in conjunction with, non-lethal control methods.
Egg and Nest Control Activities
Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) has been issued a special statewide permit by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This permit allows the CPW to destroy eggs and nests of breeding Canada geese. In most cases, eggs are 'oiled'—100% corn oil (a substance exempted from regulation by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency) is applied to eggs in the nest; the oil prevents the eggs from developing and hatching. The CPW allows landowners and land managers to conduct egg control activities under the statewide permit and provides training and technical assistance to sub-permittees.
Written permission from Colorado Parks and Wildlife is required before any interference with eggs or nests can begin. Contact CPW for more information about applying for a federal permit to conduct egg or nest control activities.
Stop Feeding: Do not feed or allow feeding of geese or other waterfowl on your property. Efforts to frighten geese away can be thwarted if nearby neighbors are feeding the geese. If geese are being fed in the area, it will be very difficult to persuade them to move elsewhere.
Landscape Modification: Geese dislike visual barriers between ponds and feeding areas. Planting trees, thick bushes, or a dense hedge between grassy areas and water may make your property less attractive to geese. While the living barrier is growing thick enough to be useful, you may need to use other methods, such as temporary fencing or repellents, to keep the geese from establishing in the area. Geese prefer mowed grasses; so leaving a buffer area of tall grass and wildflowers can create a visual and physical barrier to resident geese.
Exclusion and Barriers: Some people are successful by placing physical barriers, such as fences and boulders, to prevent geese from entering an area. The fence should be at least two feet high and have openings no larger than three-by-three inches. Chain link, chicken wire, construction fence, and wood can be used. Where appropriate, electrical fencing can provide a harmless—but effective—shock to discourage geese from entering an area; check with your local authorities to see if there are safety restrictions on electrical fencing.
Repellents: There are several commercial repellents advertised to keep geese off of lawns. These products must be applied according to label directions to be effective; they may need to be reapplied after rain, or twice weekly in dry conditions. Approved repellents are made from biodegradable, food-grade ingredients and are not toxic to birds, dogs, cats, or humans.
General: A permit is not required to scare, repel, or herd geese to protect your property, as long as the birds are not killed or harmed. Hazing geese can involve vigorously chasing geese with a broom or water hose. Repeated hazing can cause geese to relocate, but you must begin again if geese return. Hazing is most effective when geese first arrive at a location.
Trained Dogs: Some landowners and land managers have used highly trained border collies with skilled handlers to chase geese off their properties. This is not a method to be tried with a canine pet—dogs cannot be allowed to harm geese or other waterfowl. Leash laws in most cities and towns do not allow dogs to run free to chase geese. There are state regulations prohibiting use of dogs during April 1 to August 1 (when geese are nesting, molting their wing feathers, and rearing their broods). However, where allowed and used consistently, this method has proven successful in persuading geese to avoid local sites.
Noisemakers and Pyrotechnics: Check with local authorities before starting noise-making, but loud and surprising noises can be a deterrent to resident geese. Where allowed, 12-gauge 'cracker shells' and other sharp, percussive sounds can prompt geese to move to another, more peaceful location. Be sure to let neighbors know in advance of noise-making plans.
Scarecrows, Balloons, Scare Tape: As a short-term tactic, often used with other methods, geese can sometimes be scared away using various shapes and movements. Scare tape is thin, shiny ribbon, often silver on one side and red on the other. Place the reflective tape where it is visible to the geese and make a low fence across the area where you don’t want geese to cross. Tie short lengths of the shiny ribbon on the cross tape—the flashing and rattling of the tape can frighten geese. People, pets, and wind can break the tape, so it needs to be inspected and repaired daily to be useful.
Swans: Some locations have acquired swans (with clipped wings—so they cannot fly) and released them on a pond or lake to frighten away geese. This method is not recommended where the swans will come in regular contact with people, as they can be aggressive to humans as well as geese. Check local laws to be sure swans are allowed in your area. Be aware that swans can also breed, and care must be taken to ensure you don’t create an over-population of swans, instead!
Hunting: In non-urban areas where firearm discharge is allowed, hunting of Canada geese remains a cost-effective way to manage goose populations. Hunters who purchase state licenses and federal waterfowl stamps contribute to the costs associated with hunting waterfowl and help reduce overpopulation of Canada geese.
In summary, if you want to discourage Canada geese, respond quickly, stay persistent, and try to use more than one method at a time. If feeding is occurring in the immediate area, all other methods to discourage geese may be of little use. Be certain to check local ordinances and obtain any necessary permits (as outlined, above) before beginning any control measures.