Canadian Projects: Canada Geese
Why is it that in Canada animal protectionists have had such success in preventing the common practice of lethal culling of Canada geese, compared to similar efforts in the United States? In the States, thousands of birds — adults and young alike — have been rounded up during the molting period, when the adults shed their primary wing feathers and the young have yet to grow theirs and are subsequently flightless, and then are killed with gas or by decapitation.
What is more common in Canada is that birds are rounded up and shipped to other jurisdictions, sometimes with disastrous results. For example, some geese have expired from heat stress in transit due to being held up at the border while being transported in a flatbed truck. And of course the geese who have been introduced into areas they normally would not have bred in have become "nuisance" geese in some communities.
There are also widespread egg oiling or egg addling programs in both Canada and the United States.
Although most Canadians seem to be somewhat more tolerant of geese in urban areas than are Americans, there certainly have been numerous complaints about "urban geese" befouling parks and paths and ruining grass. There have, of course, been the usual concerns raised about airplanes flying into Canada geese, with potentially disastrous results. But this lack of continued, massive culling is no accident, and results from constant efforts on behalf of animal protectionists and advocates.
It is essential to understand the nature of the issue in order to fight on behalf of the geese. Generally speaking, there is a small suite of concerns that people have about geese. People who are not afraid of geese, who enjoy their company, traditionally don't talk about it, and don't send letters to legislators, the media or others. It is the complainers who are heard, and if there are enough of them, they can trigger actions that are disastrous to the geese.
Among the alleged "damage" committed by geese in urban and suburban areas are the following. (The list is by no means complete.)
- They destroy turf grass.
- Their excrement is excessive and deleterious to humans' enjoyment of shared spaces.
- They pose a risk to aircraft.
- They attack humans.
- They attack or displace other more "desirable" or rarer waterfowl species.
- They pose a human health hazard.
The real problem with Canada geese is people. We have created conditions that encourage the birds to be near us, and have moved them to where we are. They would probably have moved anyway. Continental bird populations often expand or contract in response to ever-changing ecological conditions, and humans have caused massive amounts of such change. Most particularly the grass that is used in lawns, greenswards, golf courses, verges, medians, parks and playgrounds is maintained in a carefully watered, weeded, fertilized and manicured condition of peak nutriment value to the geese, and is responsible for where those geese can now be found. Canada geese are obligate grazers and they love to eat what we love to grow, but only if they have easy access to nearby water.
Even something as simple as a small hedge between a wide lawn and water can be enough to deter geese. Other habitat moderation, such as using, where appropriate, groundcover less suitable as food for geese, also can help reduce or eliminate local numbers of the species.
Many of these concerns are exaggerated, some to absurd degrees. However, the only way to stop any complaints about Canada geese would be to utterly eliminate the species, and even then other birds and other wildlife would undoubtedly do something to annoy or frighten someone, somewhere.
The real answer to not to endlessly kill, kill, kill, but to find ways to cohabit the world we share, using cost-effective, tried-and-true methodologies, while being innovative and creative and, most importantly, understanding geese.
Learn more about Coexisting with Geese — no matter where you live — with our helpful brochure.