Hazards Ahead: The Canada Goose
In early spring we see an increase in bird sightings as migratory birds return and nesting of resident bird populations begin. One bird announces its arrival in a dramatic way due to its large size and aggressive behavior. That bird is the Canada goose. Note for its long black black neck and over 5-foot wing span, this bird can stand over 3 feet in height. During breeding seasons, this bird can attack people from the ground and the air when defending their young and nests. These actions can include charging people and even bites.
In addition to their aggressive nest defending behavior, geese leave a lot of droppings in their paths. It is estimated that one goose can produce an average, 1.5 pounds or more of fecal material per day. The droppings may be deposited as frequently as every 20 minutes. The majority of Canada geese are non-migratory and therefore, the frequent fecal deposits accumulate year-round. The goose poop may be left on land or deposited in ponds. In ponds, it can add to the nitrogen and phosphorous loads resulting in algae growth and poor pond health. On land, the droppings are messy, unsightly and can create slip hazards. In addition, fecal material can be tracked into food facilities along with potential pathogens when droppings occur on pedestrian walkways. Currently there is no research demonstrating a direct relationship between a food borne illness outbreak and goose droppings. However, scientists have compiled a list of pathogens found in goose poop including viruses, protozoans and bacteria. Of concern to the food industry are the pathogens capable of causing food borne illness. The food borne illness pathogens found in goose fecal material include: E. coli, Listeria moncytogenes, Salmonella and Campylobecter jejuni.
Goose Control Methods – Keeping geese away from public areas will help reduce aggressive geese encounters and reduce health risks
- Fencing is one such way of minimizing both geese encounters and droppings near buildings or around ponds. A fence can be temporary or permanent. Well-marked nylon line, with mylar flags and stakes can be used if geese activity on paths is seasonal. Fence lined sidewalks will prevent geese from crossing from grassy feeding areas onto paved walkways.
- Planting grass varieties which geese do not like. Fescue varieties are less palatable to geese than Kentucky blue grass lawns. Reduced fertilization of all types of turf can also decrease geese attraction.
- Egg addling. This control method will require a special permit but can be used to reduce populations by coating eggs with corn oil. The oil prevents the eggs from hatching and eventual reduces geese numbers.
- Ovocontrol-G. Another method of reducing bird numbers over time is Ovocontrol-G. It is a birth control treated food bait. It can limit population growth.
- Use of repellents like methyl anthranilate sprays can keep geese from congregating in certain areas. Reapplication of these materials will be required but can be effective in keeping geese from turf or other areas.
- Harassment. Use of dogs or remote-control boats, helicopters or trucks have been used to annoy geese and keep them from ponds or turf.
Management of Canada geese is important for health and safety reasons. This is one more way the pest management industry can assist in public health efforts. More information on Canada geese control can be found at: http://icwdm.org/handbook/birds/CanadaGeese/ControlTechniquesHome.aspx