Who is the Canada Goose?
The Giant Canada Goose, Branta candensis maxima, is the largest breed of geese who are the descendants of the migratory geese who journey between the U.S. and Canada. They are not migratory and are known as residential. This breed was thought to be extinct through overhunting until a small group of them were discovered in the 1960’s. This led to a breeding program being established in Minnesota. The adults’ wings were clipped so that they could not fly. Migration is a skill the goslings learn from their parents during the annual migration season. The consequence of this disruption was that future generations that were redistributed throughout the country never migrated.
What are the characteristics of the Grand Canada Goose?
- The Giant Canada Goose is the most intelligent of all waterfowl.
- Canada geese mate for life. When a goose’s mate dies, that bird will mourn in seclusion-and some geese refuse to mate again.
- Pairs return to the same nesting site year after year.
- The female lays between five and ten eggs per year, six on the average. Less than half, however, reach the age of reproduction.
- Geese are territorial, which puts a natural limit to the number of birds in any location.
- During nesting season, the gander will vigilantly protect the female sitting on the nest if people come close.
- Geese molt when their goslings are about one-month old in June or July. They will be flightless for 4-5 weeks. They regain their flight feathers about the time their goslings reach the flight stage.
Why are Canada Geese attracted to urban areas?
As natural wetland habitats favored by Canada Geese have diminished, geese have sought out urban areas that provide:
- Food source: Mowed grass creates a goose buffet!
- Body of water: Man-made lakes are most inviting, providing safety and a place to raise offspring.
- Sense of safety: Geese prefer large open areas with a 360-degree view of potential predators. Many lakes have no tall vegetation surrounding them and provide geese a clear line of sight and easy access to the safety of the lake.
Problems that Humans have with Geese and Solutions
Why are Canada Geese protected?
Giant Canada Geese were hunted to near-extinction and by 1960, they were truly endangered. The species was brought back by effective breeding programs however. Giant Canada geese were then released throughout the United States. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means they cannot be hunted outside of designated seasons and without the permission of state wildlife agencies.
While the national program to save the Canada goose from extinction may have been prompted in part by a sincere desire to save a dying species, the real impetus was to provide a flourishing population of game birds for hunters. Indeed, Giant Canada geese were released in all 48 states; well beyond their original habitat area in an effort to exploit the species once again. Source: https://livingwithgeese.org/how-the-government-is-responsible-for-the-canada-goose-population-boost/
What are problems geese usually cause?
As with most (if not all) human-animal conflicts, the cause of any problems associated with urban geese populations falls squarely in our laps. Their numbers increased due to our own re-population program, and our ill-conceived green space design. We invited Canada geese into our parks, golf courses, office commons, and condominium grounds by offering the ideal living environment, and by feeding them. People used to love to sit and watch the geese with their little goslings…until we tired of their natural behaviors.
- Geese defecate (as do all animals, including humans), and people don’t like having to watch their step.
- Geese defend their homes and their young (as do all animals, including humans), and people resent being approached by an angry gander.
- Geese occasionally strike aircraft while flying and have become the scapegoat for this danger. The trouble with blaming Canada geese for these strikes is that evidence has shown they are not the only “culprits.” Gulls, turkey vultures, eagles, starlings, owls, pigeons, crows, and a dozen other bird species have been proven to have collided with planes mid-air. Is the answer to exterminate all of these birds?
How can we curb the population to decrease the problems humanely?
There are two ways to curb goose populations in unwanted areas. First, and foremost is designing green spaces with wildlife in mind. If your goal is to prevent the nesting and egg-laying of Canada geese, the last thing you want to do is clear out all the native growth from the area and put a pond smack-dab in the middle. This is like Disneyland to a goose. Waterfowl are prey animals and need to be able to see when a predator is approaching; therefore, a body of water with an unobstructed view of the surroundings is ideal for their purposes. Designers should take advantage of native grasses, shrubs, and other plants to produce a variety of levels and dimensions. This would not only discourage geese, it would also result in a more appealing landscape for humans.
The second, more hands-on, way of population control is egg depredation which means oiling or exchanging the laid eggs for wooden ones. Depredation involves preventing already laid eggs from hatching.
Do the ways of discouraging nesting and gathering work?
Discouraging future nesting through habitat modification and the above-mentioned egg depredation are the only methods that do actually work. When we encounter a problem with wildlife, too often our knee-jerk reaction is to kill the offending animals. Not only is this quick-fix unethical, it is a shortsighted solution. Rounding up geese and goslings for slaughter only rids an area of that one flock. Without addressing what conditions attracted the animals to that location in the first place, there is no reason to believe another population will not move in once the present residents are gone. And, this is, in fact, what occurs. It makes far more sense to critically look at what can be done to prevent habitation. This is where the overall design of the environment comes into play and the use of hazing by trained border collies can make a difference between a problem and a solution.
Is feeding geese harmful?
Yes! If you truly want to be humane you will not feed geese. They should not eat bread, poultry feed or carbohydrates of any kind. These provide empty calories and ultimately can lead to a goose developing a deformation of their wings called angel wing. This condition prevents them from flying. It also increases their desire to remain on your property and doubles the amount of feces that they produce in a day.
What happens when?
The Seasons of the Canada Goose
September to January
Canada geese congregate in flocks and fly from lake to lake to feed. During cold winter months, the Illinois goose population triples with the arrival of migratory groups from the north.
Migratory flocks begin flying north. Resident geese begin nesting behavior. Male and female breeding pairs separate from the flock. Juvenile geese (one- and two-year-old’s) remain in small groups and don’t breed.
Property owners should register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in preparation for spring nesting on their property. You can use the link on our Resources Page.
March, April, to Early May
Nesting begins! A pair of geese will prepare a nest for six to seven eggs. The mother incubates the eggs and the father stands guard. Property owners locate nests, test eggs for their stage of development, and follow Humane Society protocol coating eggs with corn oil to prevent development or switching out eggs with wooden ones. After three weeks, remove the oiled eggs. The goose’s reproductive cycle is over for the year.
Mid-May to Early June
When nesting is over, geese search for a safe place for the summer molt, a location with plentiful food and a lake. The molt is a several week period when adult geese become flightless. Old feathers are dropped as new ones grow in.
Property owners bring in the team of trained border collies for a few weeks to patrol the lake. The border collies are perceived as predators and pursue the geese on land into the water. Geese do not want to become stranded where there are predators and so will leave the area. Some property owners have used the Goosinator with great success. See Resources.
Mid-June to Mid-August
Having followed the Humane Society program, Canada geese will have moved to more remote areas leaving urban sites conflict free of Canada goose problems.
Late August and Fall
The molt is over and geese are flying again and it is possible they may revisit your property. Property owners may wish to resume periodic border collie patrols, remove oiled or wooden eggs.