Fowled Up: Geese Ruffling Neighbors' Feathers
The blackbird may sing in the dead of night, but the Canada goose honks all day long, much to the chagrin of nearby humans.
“It started out with these darling little chicks,” says Pinehurst resident Marge Behning. “Now they’re all adults, and they’re big. … It’s become a real annoyance.”
Besides honking, Canada geese eat turf and crops, lowering property values. They also leave mounds of, well, mounds in their wake, contaminating the water supply and causing algae blooms.
“They lay down a lot of poop,” says Paul Tillman, an agent of the North Carolina Wildlife Commission. “The birds come pooping all over the ground, and it can cause health issues in animals that feed on the grass.”
For annoyed residents around Lake Pinehurst, however, there are limits as to what can be done with their fowl neighbors.
The Canada goose was once badly threatened by overhunting and habitat destruction. In 1918, Canada and the United States adopted the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, protecting more than 800 species of birds, including the Canada goose. As a result, goose populations increased nearly fourfold, and the species’ survival was assured.
Canada geese began moving farther south, adapting to the new climate.
They congregate around ponds and lakes. If they have goslings in an area and can find a stable source of food, they often settle permanently. Prevented by law from killing the geese, police and residents are unable to deal with this invasive species.
“The issue is they are a protected species,” said Floyd Thomas, Pinehurst deputy police chief. “There’s not anything we can really do much more than go out and watch them until they go away.”
Thomas said because the birds are protected, his office rarely gets a complaint about the birds.
“They seem to be well aware of their federal protection status, and enjoy it,” speculates resident Doug Middaugh. “It’s time to revisit that protection and come up with some means by which their numbers could be controlled.”
While citizens may not kill the geese, they can scare them off with Mylar tape or statues of predators (such as lions or wolves).
Those unskilled in the art of scaring birds can hire a professional to do it. Donald Thomas has made a career of driving geese off resorts and golf courses.
“We use border collies,” he says. “The geese see them as predators, like wolves or coyotes or something. … They’ve tried everything in the nation and nothing’s ever worked except for the collies.”
Many websites instruct citizens to disrupt goose nests, but this, too, is illegal.
“You can contact the North Carolina Wildlife Commission, and they can come in and do egg-rattling or egg-dipping,” says Tillman. “You cannot do this unless you are licensed; it’s a felony for every egg you mess up.”
Most importantly, citizens should not, under any circumstances, feed the geese.
“Once they’re fed, they’ll come back,” says Middaugh. “The [village] council should prohibit the feeding of wild animals, except chickadees and cardinals, of course.”
“We’re concerned that our community’s being degraded,” says Middaugh’s wife, Judy. “That’s why we’re so vocal.”
Drowning out the birds, too, is hard to achieve.
Contact Andrew Soboeiro at email@example.com.
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