Most people enjoy seeing Canada geese. However, the big birds often wear out their welcome when they become too numerous and when yards, beaches and docks become fouled with their feces. This guide explains why problems with geese arise and how homeowners can reduce these problems.
Why are there so many geese?
Canada goose populations have dramatically increased in residential and lake home areas because: 1) habitat is abundant; 2) geese have a high reproductive potential and a long life span; and 3) mortality from hunting and other predation is low. Geese live in a particular area that meets their needs for food, reproduction and security. Together these factors provide goose habitat.
Geese are grazers that feed primarily on short grasses such as those found in parks, lawns and golf courses. They need feeding sites with open vistas and access to lakes and marshes to escape danger. Golf courses, parks and large lawns next to ponds, marshes and lakes often provide all of these ingredients. Docks, yards and beaches provide secure “loafing” sites for preening and sunning.
Canada geese are extremely prolific. Able to reproduce at 2 or 3 years of age and living to over 10 years, a pair of adult geese raises and average of about 4 young per year. At normal reproduction and mortality, a pond or lake with 3 pairs of adult geese can multiply to nearly 50 birds within 5 years and to over 300 in just 10 years. Being social birds geese congregate in “flocks,” except during the nesting season. Most birds in these flocks are related and return to the same nesting and feeding areas every year.
How can I get the geese to leave?
Landscaping your shoreline to make it less attractive for Canada geese is considered the most effective long-term and environmentally sound method of reducing goose problems to individual yards and lawns. Temporary measures such as fences or repellents may be necessary to keep geese from you yard until landscaping is established.
An unmowed shoreline buffer of native grasses and wild flowers that grow 20-30 inches tall in a strip 20-30 feet wide along the shoreline can discourage goose visits. And more importantly, this will help reduce the amount of nutrients flowing into the lake. Native grasses generally remain standing even after winter snows have compacted most other grasses.
Use an S-shaped footpath (3-4 feet wide) to provide access from your yard to the shoreline. Newly seeded and lush green lawns are too irresistible for geese to pass up. Anything you can do to reduce or eliminate turf grasses will keep geese off your property.
A hedge near the water with a gate to allow access can be decorative as well as effective at reducing goose access to your lawn. Canada geese avoid using areas where plants obstruct their view of the surrounding area. The hedge should be 30-36 inches tall and must be thick enough to exclude geese. Check with you local nursery or greenhouse for shrubs that will work in your yard.
Leave a dense strip of naturally occurring trees and shrubs (20-30 feet wide) along the shoreline. A narrow (3-4 feet wide) S-shaped foot path can provide access to the lake.
A combination of the two above is usually the most effective deterrent. Contact your local nursery for guides to shoreline landscaping.
The simplest method involves frightening or hazing geese. In some cases, repeatedly and vigorously chasing geese from the property while armed with a broom will cause the geese to relocate. Noise-making scare devices are a type of pyrotechnics and can sometimes be used to haze geese from you property. Pyrotechnics are most applicable in rural settings. These include “bangers” and “screamers” fired from a special launcher or “cracker shells” discharged from a 12-gauge shotgun. These devices are often offensive to neighbors. Check local ordinances before purchasing or using pyrotechnics consistent with manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions.
Bird Scare Tape
Bird scare tape or bird flash tape is a short-term or emergency strategy to reduce problems from geese walking onto your yard. Bird scare tape is a thin shiny mylar ribbon. It is silver on one side, usually red on the other. When properly used, the tape flashes in the sun and rattles in the breeze, frightening geese.
Bird scare tape is not effective if geese are flying into your yard. Locate the tape “fence” where it is visible to the geese. The fence should be long enough so geese cannot walk around it into the yard. Check the yellow pages for local suppliers of scare tape.
Energized fencing can effectively and practically reduce goose grazing in your yard. It is useful in situations more severe than hazing or bird scare tape can handle. Most home owners prefer portable fencing that can be set up in 1-2 hours and quickly taken down for storage when not in use. If you are interested in using energized fencing for geese, check local ordinances and contact your Area Wildlife Office for more information.
Barrier Fencing is a very effective method for excluding walking geese from your yard. This method consists of placing a physical barrier that geese cannot pass through between the water and the area to be protected. Barrier fences can be constructed from woven wire, chicken wire, plastic snow fence, corn cribbing, chain-link, netting, or a picket fence. An effective barrier fence for walking Canada geese uses durable material with openings no larger than 3 inches by 3 inches that is at least 30 inches high.