Managing Resident Canada Goose Conflicts with People in Urban Areas
Since before recorded history, Oklahoma has hosted several sub-species of Canada geese during their annual fall and spring migrations and has also served as a principal wintering area for migrant Canada geese. Resident Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima) on the other hand, are largely non-migratory, and reside year around throughout Oklahoma. Although resident Canada geese are a wildlife resource that are highly valued by hunters and many non-hunters alike, in urban areas, local concentrations of geese can lead to conflicts with people.
In general, resident Canada geese have benefited from the way humans have altered the landscape. Resident Canada geese are attracted to areas that provide food, water, and protection, and urban areas provide all of these resources. In addition, in most urban situations where resident Canada geese have become a nuisance, feeding by humans is invariably at the root of what usually becomes an escalating problem. Typically, a pair of geese shows up at a site and people begin feeding them. Eventually, the feeding results in large concentrations of birds as they congregate for free handouts and goose droppings and aggressive goose behavior soon become issues. Feeding causes extreme changes in goose behavior with the geese quickly losing their normal fear of humans and instead come to recognize humans as a source of food. The first step in addressing any urban conflict situation with resident Canada geese is to ensure that there is no supplemental feeding of the birds.
Canada geese are protected by federal and state laws. The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (16USC 703-711) protects Canada geese, their nest and eggs. Federal and state laws prohibit capturing or killing Canada geese outside of legal hunting seasons without a permit. Non-lethal control activities such as harassment with pyrotechnics or other sound making devices, chasing with dogs, visual deterrents and use of approved chemical repellents are all allowed year around as long as there is no direct contact with geese and that do not result in harm to geese, goslings, eggs, or nest. Non-lethal control activities such as these do not require state or federal permits.
Control Activities Allowed with a Permit
Egg and Nest Control
The Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation (ODWC) has been issued a federal Special Canada Goose Permit (SCGP) by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). This allows the ODWC or its designated agents to destroy eggs and nest of breeding resident Canada geese. The ODWC has used certified Nuisance Wildlife Control Operators (NWCO) operating under the Department’s SCGP to conduct egg and nest control work on resident Canada geese in urban areas. NWCO’s charge a fee for their services to control resident Canada geese. Egg and nest control work combined with other population management activities can help alleviate problems associated with resident Canada goose use of urban areas.
The USFWS has adopted new rules for managing resident Canada geese including a nest and egg depredation order for resident Canada geese that authorizes private landowners, public land managers, homeowners’ associations and local governments to destroy resident Canada goose nest and eggs on property under their jurisdiction when necessary to resolve or prevent injury to people, property, agricultural crops, or other interests. The order does not authorize the killing of any migratory bird species or destruction of any nest or eggs other than those of resident Canada geese.
Landowners are required to self-register with the USFWS via the Internet at https://epermits.fws.gov/eRCGR/geSI.aspx Additional details and requirements regarding the federal nest and egg control order for resident Canada geese are available at this site. For information on how to addle resident Canada goose eggs go to http://mdc.mo.gov/landown/wild/nuisance/w_geese/how.htm or the other references listed below.
The ODWC has agreed to the new federal permitting system for resident Canada goose nest and egg control work in Oklahoma and does not require a state permit for landowners wishing to conduct the work. However, for landowners who do not wish to do the control work themselves, the ODWC maintains a list of NWCO who are available for a fee to conduct resident Canada goose nest and egg control work.
Airport Control Order
Federal order that authorizes managers at commercial, public and private airports and military air operation facilities to implement a control and management program when necessary to resolve or prevent threats to public safety from resident Canada geese. Management activities at airports would be restricted to a radius of 3 miles from the airports’ boundaries. Participating airports or their agents must first obtain all necessary authorizations from landowners for all management activities conducted outside the airport boundaries. No additional state permits are required to participate in the federal airport control order for resident Canada geese. Additional information and requirements are available from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Region 2 office in Albuquerque, New Mexico at 505-248-7882 or https://epermits.fws.gov/eRCGR/DOC/eRcgrFaq.pdf
Other Options for Managing Resident Canada Geese
The best results for controlling the use of a site by resident Canada geese involve using a combination of several different control methods and changing tactics often to prevent geese from becoming conditioned to any one technique. In addition, studies show that geese exposed to hunting are more likely to respond to scare devices outside the goose hunting seasons. The ODWC maintains a list of private animal control companies (NWCO) that can be consulted and contracted with for help in scaring and controlling resident Canada geese. Before using any explosive devices, remember to check local ordinances and inform your neighbors. Additional technical assistance information on the techniques listed below is available at:
Do not feed or allow feeding of geese or other waterfowl on your property
Allow hunting of geese on your property if possible during open goose seasons
Remove domestic waterfowl from the area
Modify landscape to deter goose use of site
Exclusion and barriers (fencing or other physical barriers)
Noisemakers and pyrotechnics
Visual deterrents (scarecrows, balloons, Mylar scare tape)
Nest and egg control
Capture and relocation or euthanization (see ODWC list of certified NWCO)
In summary, if you want to discourage resident Canada geese, respond quickly when they first start using a site, stay persistent and try to use more than one method at a time. If feeding is occurring in the immediate area, all other methods to discourage geese will be ineffective. Be certain to check local ordinances and obtain any necessary permits before beginning any control measures.