Canada geese, often mistakenly called Canadian geese, are a valuable natural resource that provide enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters and the public. The sight of their loud honking V-formations always brings a certain thrill. Their distinctive calls define the changing seasons.
But for the recent past decades, flocks of local nesting Canada geese have become year-round residents — and destructive nuisances — of our lakes, golf courses and neighborhoods. With a lack of predators, there has been an unnatural population explosion. As flocks grow, the droppings become excessive. One goose produces a pound of droppings a day.
Smaller ponds are particularly affected by nutrient loading. There are increased concerns at beaches and drinking water supplies, aggressive behavior by nesting birds, and safety hazards at roads and airports. U.S. Airways Flight 1459, which crashed into the Hudson River, was brought down by contact with Canada geese. Between 2000 and 2008, LaGuardia and Newark Airports reported nine goose-plane strikes; JFK Airport recorded 30 strikes.
One of my neighbors lives on a small pond. Some days as many as 30 Canada geese come up upon her small lawn to feast and leave a trail of droppings. She has tried owl decoys, a wolf decoy and even swan decoys. She also tied reflective bird tape to stakes near the pond. It works for a short time only. Now she resorts to a clanking clapper device that makes them swim away, only to return when she leaves.
The most effective measure is to locate the birds’ nests and either shake laid eggs repeatedly or coat them with vegetable oil. All migratory Canada geese are protected by federal and state laws and regulations. Anyone planning to act against such encroaching geese are advised to read the rules before attempting to eliminate the pests.
Because most resident Canada geese will live more than 20 years, and because a female goose may produce more than 50 young over her lifetime, it is inevitable that matters will only get worse — far worse. Feeding feathered visitors should be a no-no. However, many bird lovers do it.
Planting tall grass and letting it grow to 10 to 14 inches around water bodies is less attractive to geese than short green grass. Well-manicured lawns and newly seeded areas provide excellent habitat for these large grazing birds. Instead of grass, plant native shrubs or less palatable ground cover, such as ivy, pachysandra, or junipers around the shoreline of ponds and walkways where they are a problem.
Fencing is rarely a good option because it is recommended to be at least 30 inches tall or 60 inches to block aggressive birds. Using trained dogs like Border collies have been effective at golf courses, but is an expensive measure for the typical homeowner. Relocation is not effective. Studies have found that relocated geese will return to their initial capture locations by the following summer.
Use of swans does not work. Chasing geese from one place to another does not work. A September hunting season in North Carolina occurs statewide and allows a very liberal bag limit of 15 geese per day. Unfortunately, since no hunting is allowed in residential areas, citizens in those municipalities see no impact on goose numbers. Like hawks, owls, vultures and ducks, resident Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Thus, in this area only non-lethal techniques such as spray-repellents, goose-chasing dogs, and harassment are the only options available to the homeowner or golf course or park manager.
There is a federal registry to allow the destruction of resident Canada geese nests and eggs on private or municipal property. One can receive federal authorization by registering on the USFWS website at https://epermits.fws.gov/eRCGR/geSI.aspx. Eggs may only be destroyed between March 1 and June 30. Any eggs destroyed must be reported by October 31. The website provides methods to addle the eggs.
Many lakes with human swimming areas have been closed to the public because of geese. It is a serious problem for all who live on a lake. Geese represent a genuine health threat to Lake Pinehurst and the ponds nearby. They also present a threat at similar water locations within our county and state.
Nationally and here in the Sandhills, golf courses are the perfect habitats for Canada geese. They seriously damage them and make them less attractive to play. Course managers spend thousands of dollars annually to repair greens and fairways and to clean up goose droppings for the convenience of their players. Droppings pose various health and physical hazards. Goose manure is very slick and can contribute to broken ankles and other serious injuries if stepped on. It also breeds bacterium E. Coli, which promotes flulike symptoms in humans.
Most local municipal governments and Moore County’s government have been passive about Canada geese problems at a time when an active stance might be more helpful to solving a growing problem. My sense is that the more eggs that are addled by concerned citizens, the less goose poop will be stepped upon.