Love ‘em or loath them, resident Canada geese are likely here to stay, says the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
The Colorado Division of Wildlife gets many requests for the removal of Canada geese from various properties. In the preceding ten years, the Division tried to match up the “surplus” geese with other areas in Colorado and surrounding states that requested Canada geese. Geese in the metro area were caught and transported to new locations. But this year, the DOW will not be rounding up and relocating Canada geese from metro areas to other locations. The reason is simple: there are no appropriate locations for goose habitat that are clamoring for Colorado’s abundant geese.
“For the past ten years or more, we’ve rounded up Canada geese from golf courses, city parks and other locations where managers said that the number of geese was not desirable,” said Vicki Vargas-Madrid, district wildlife manager for Denver. “The purpose of the trap and transplant program was to be able to move an overpopulation of resident geese to places where they were seeking to re-establish or introduce Canada geese. All of those locations have their quotas of Canada geese. Now, we are looking at other options and choices to offer people who want to limit the number of geese in a specific area.”
There are an estimated 10,000 resident Canada geese on the Front Range, and cities and suburban developments are luring Canada geese to Colorado communities with many of the same amenities that are appealing to humans. “Colorado has great goose habitat, with bluegrass – especially on golf courses – and water features such as man-made lakes and ponds,” Vargas said. Traditional landscaping created ideal conditions for resting, molting, brood rearing and foraging. Feeding geese, still a common recreation for many families, further concentrates geese in parks and other areas. There are few predators (save an occasional coyote) and hunting isn’t allowed in urban areas.
Forty years ago, Canada geese may have used Colorado as a stopping place on annual migrations, but there wasn’t a year-round population. As geese began to nest on the banks of lakes and ponds, their offspring would migrate with them in the autumn, but once mated, there was a fifty-fifty chance they would return to their place they hatched to start a new family. Those goslings hatched in Colorado were also likely to return for the next generation.
Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This act gives the federal U.S. Fish and Wildlife service authority to set limits, make regulations and issue permits to harvest or take waterfowl. Hunting Canada geese is only allowed during the seasons specified by the USFWS. State agencies set hunting season schedules and bag limits within federal guidelines. In Colorado, those seasons vary by county, but are generally in the fall and early winter. (For information on specific dates in Colorado, ask for the Waterfowl Hunting Season brochure from the Colorado Division of Wildlife.)
For more information about Canada geese, visit http://wildlife.state.co.us or call the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Northeast Region at (303) 291-7227.
Common Name: Canada goose
Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
Physical Description: A brownish-gray body with a long black neck, black head, and black bill characterize the Canada goose. The males and females are similar in appearance. They have white throat patches that extend to the cheeks with a brownish-white breast and belly. They also exhibit a white undertail.
Weight/Size: Weights can range from 8-13 lbs. Adult males are somewhat larger than adult females. They are the largest of the wild geese but their size diminishes as you travel northward.
Length is 22 to 40 inches.
Habitat/range: This goose lives throughout North America in lakes, bays, rivers, and marshes. They are often seen feeding in open grasslands and fields. Some populations have become domesticated to local city parks and reservoirs. In urban areas, traditional landscaping for lawns and parks, with expansive areas of bluegrass lawn and numerous ponds and lakes, creates ideal conditions for resting, molting, brood rearing and foraging. While many geese have become year-round residents, Canada geese that do migrate through Colorado can fly as far north as Alaska and Canada in the summer, and as far south as Texas, southern California and sometimes parts of Mexico in the winter.
Diet: In fields, their diet consists of fallen grain. In marshes, they feed on wild rice, sedges, other aquatic plants, insects, larvae, crustaceans and small mollusks. Their feeding habits are very regular and the are known to return day after day to the same location if they are not disturbed. On the water, they practice the same habits as surface-feeding ducks. Canada geese will feed on newly sprouted lawns and established grass in urban areas.
Nests/Reproduction: The goose builds the nest and she adds down from her body during the time the eggs are laid. It is built on the ground near water or in tubs placed on water. Breeding season begins in early April, when the pair seeks out a spot for the hen to lay her eggs. 5-6 eggs are laid and incubation lasts from 24-30 days, with the goose incubating alone and the gander standing guard nearby. Both parents care for the goslings and the family remains together during migration and through the winter. Geese are often aggressive and protective of their young, and may harass or scare people and pets who approach nesting areas.
General information: The Canada goose is one of the most visible and well-known waterfowl. In some parts of the United States they have become a nuisance species because of large numbers of geese congregating in city parks and golf courses. They are highly adaptable to human presence. Their honking can be heard before being sighted in v-formation, confirming the change in seasons.
METHODS TO DISCOURAGE RESIDENCE OF CANADA GEESE
To provide more options for dealing with nuisance or over-abundant geese, the State of Colorado has been issued a special statewide use permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service to provide landowners and managers more flexibility in dealing with Canada geese. The permit will allow Coloradans who wish to reduce local goose populations permission to destroy eggs or nests on their property. Without federal permission, both of these activities are currently illegal, as well as capturing, translocating, disturbing or harvesting Canada geese. (Other states, including South Dakota and Minnesota have also received the federal permit.)
Since Canada geese lay one clutch (a group of 5 to 6 eggs) each spring, any interference with eggs or nests would begin in 2002, as nesting and hatching has been completed this year. Addling or oiling eggs and replacing them in the nest is one method that would be permitted under the federal guidelines. Shaking and/or oiling typically prevents the maturation of the egg, but the intact shell fools the adult geese into continuing to sit on the nest without laying additional eggs. (If eggs are broken or removed, geese will lay replacement eggs.) The decision to interfere with eggs will be the prerogative of the property owner or manager.
Many approaches have been tried to deal with an overpopulation of Canada geese in urban areas. Other states, notably Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin round up surplus adult Canada geese to provide food for needy people in shelters. In addition to requiring federal permission to kill geese, there are costs involved in holding and processing geese for human consumption. Officials in Minnesota estimated 70,000 Canada geese have been donated to food pantries under this program. (This plan has not been proposed for Colorado’s surplus Canada geese.)
Right now, if you’ve got more Canada geese than you want or in places where you don’t want them, there are a few recommended methods to discourage geese from hanging around. People who are experienced with Canada geese behavior recommend you respond quickly to the presence of Canada geese, stay persistent and try to use more than one method at a time.
1. Stop feeding. Homeowners’ efforts to frighten geese away can be thwarted by neighbors who are feeding the geese next door or across the lake. If geese are being fed in the area, you might as well give up trying to scare them away.
2. Hazing methods. A permit is not required to scare, repel or herd geese to protect your property, as long as the birds are not harmed or killed. Frightening, or hazing, geese can involve vigorously chasing geese with a broom or water hose. Repeated hazing can cause geese to relocate, but you must begin again if the geese return. Hazing is most effective when geese first arrive at a location.
3. Noisemakers and Pyrotechnics. Check with local authorities before starting a regimen of noise-making, but loud and surprising noises can be a deterrent to resident geese. Where allowed, 12-gauge “cracker shells” and other sharp percussive sounds can prompt geese to move to another, more peaceful location. Be sure to let neighbors know in advance of noise-making plans.
4. Trained dogs and clipped swans. Some golf courses have used highly trained border collies with skilled handlers to chase geese off fairways. This is not a method to be used casually with a canine pet: dogs cannot be allowed to catch or harm geese or other waterfowl. Leash laws in most cities and towns do not allow dogs to run free to chase geese. There are state regulations prohibiting use of dogs during certain times of the year (nesting season.) However, where allowed, this method has proven success as border collies were bred to herd sheep and seem to instinctively adjust behavior to herding geese out of an area.
Some locations have purchased swans with clipped wings (so they cannot fly away) and released them on a pond or lake to frighten away geese. This method is not recommended where the swans will come in regular contact with people, as they can be aggressive to humans as well as geese. Check local laws to be sure swans are allowed in your area before releasing. Be aware that swans can also breed, and care must be taken to ensure you don’t end up with an overpopulation of this species instead.
5. Scarecrows, Balloons, Scare Tape. As a short-term tactic, often used with other methods, geese can sometimes be scared away using various shapes and movements. Scare tape is thin, shiny ribbon, usually silver on one side and red on the other. Place the reflective tape where it is visible to the geese and make a low fence across the area where you don’t want geese to cross. Tie short lengths of the shiny ribbon on the cross tape; the flashing and rattling of the tape can frighten geese. People, pets and wind can break the tape, so it needs to be inspected and repaired daily to be useful.
6. Landscape Modification. Geese dislike visual barriers between ponds and feeding areas. Planting trees, thick bushes, or a dense hedge, between grassy areas and water may make your property less attractive to geese. While your living barrier is growing thick enough to be useful, you may need to use other methods, such as temporary fencing or repellents to keep the geese from establishing in the area.
Geese do not prefer unmowed grasses; leaving a buffer area of tall grass and wildflowers can create a visual and physical barrier to resident geese.
7. Exclusion and Barriers. Some people are successful by placing physical barriers, such as fences and boulders to prevent geese from entering an area they wish to protect. The fence should be at least 2 feet high and have openings no larger than 3 by 3 inches. Chain link, chicken wire, construction fence and wood can be used. Where appropriate, electrical fencing can provide a harmless, but effective shock to discourage geese from entering an area; check with your local authorities to see if there are safety restrictions on electrical fencing.
8. Repellents. There are several commercial repellents advertised to repel geese from lawns. These products must be carefully applied according to label directions to be effective; they may need to be reapplied after rain, or twice weekly in dry conditions. Approved repellents are made from biodegradable, food-grade ingredients and are not toxic to humans, birds, dogs or cats.
9. Hunting. Outside of urban areas, (where firearm discharge is not permissible), hunting of Canada geese remains a cost-effective way to manage goose populations. Hunters who purchase state licenses and federal waterfowl stamps bear the costs associated with hunting waterfowl and help reduce overpopulation of Canada geese.
For more information on Living with Canada Geese, contact the Colorado Division of Wildlife, Northeast Region, 303/291-7227.