Monday, July 22, 2013

Goose Wars

I can't speak for other parts of the country, but if you live in the upper Midwest and near water, you WILL get a visit from your Canadian neighbors of the loud honking variety.

The original Range was on a large retaining lake.  How beautiful I thought, Dad will love this, the home purchased at the time he was going to live with me, at least for a while, post stroke.

The yard was fenced so Barkley couldn't get into the water unless I opened the gate, but I so enjoyed sitting out on the deck in the evenings looking at the water.

Until my neighbors showed up that first morning there, honk honk honk honk honk honk at the crack of dawn.  It was like living next to the LA Expressway.

The Canada Geese had arrived.
I know a lot of people love geese.  They feed them, they buy life sized plastic or cement ones for their porch they can dress up like the Village People.  I liked geese too, until they moved in next door. If you've not lived around geese I'll sum it up.

(1) noise that just increases every year as the population swells
(2)  goose poop, lots of goose poop (up to a 1 1/2 pounds a day per goose).  It's not just, well, icky, there's always the risk of zoonotic disease that could be vectored to humans.
Now that you've decided you'd rather not have them around, be sure to check in on your local laws and ordinances before you take steps to get rid of geese AND remember that Canada geese are protected by the migratory bird act and can't be killed without permits. But there are more humane ways to encourage them to look for another place to hang out.

Migratory Geese are easier to shoo away, but geese that have claimed your area as their residence, returning year after year to raise their young, will aggressively protect that nest.

Before you do anything: Assess the situation.  If you're seeing the geese just in the spring or fall, they're likely only using your spot for a rest stop during migration. If you’re seeing geese in the winter, you’re likely providing habitat for a migratory population.  According to the Audubon folks, don’t try to evict each and every goose, but rather strike a balance. (I learned a long time ago that if one takes nature completely out of the equation you are going to come out on the short end of that particular stick.)
Selecting Grass:  Geese like young shoots to nibble on.  If you choose a mature tall fescue and allow the grass to grow a bit more(about 3 inches)  they may look for tastier fare across the street. Removing chunks of your turf lawn and replacing with taller native plants and bushes is also a great geese control tactic. Avoid Kentucky Bluegrass, it's like waving a large prime rib at your local carnivore.

If you  have a pond or small retaining lake on the property, avoid mowing to the water’s edge. Instead, plant native vegetation that does well in moist environments. Canada geese avoid using areas where plants obstruct their view of the surrounding area.
You can also install wire around the pond to deter the geese. The Audubon info recommends stringing one one row 6 inches off the ground by the water's edge, and another 6 inches above the water three feet into the pond, to keep geese away from their popular water spots on your property.

If you do an online search for goose deterrents, there  are also chemical repellents that have been used such as Methyl anthranilate or Anthraquinone. But for most homeowners, especially this one, the chemical approach is not an option.
Hazing: Not just for bored spoiled college students any more! Hazing is an assortment of noisy or colorful means that serve to frighten the geese away.  By themselves, they usually don't work (why the neighbor with the fake coyote usually finds it surrounded by two dozen geese every morning).  You have to sort of mix it up, for after a while they just get used to it.

Some of these are of the noisy, pyrotechnic type. If you have close neighbors though, these devices will be as annoying to them as the geese and they might not be legal where you live (so you might think twice about that propane cannon going off every 10 minutes).

Some recommend helium balloons, with large "eye spots" tethered to be about 10 feet above the "goose free area".  Like this one, THIS one would scare the heck out of me.

There are some things others recognize as "go away - danger", geese are no different.
Others recommend flags in safety orange, placed around the yard, visible from all points (but once the birds land where there are flags and start dinner, they are no longer effective).

Frankly, for lack of anything else, running repeatedly and vigorously out the back door in your Wonder Woman pajamas with red hair streaming, waving a broom and yelling like a banshee is quite effective (though you won't get invited to any more block parties).

Barrier Fences: this would work best on a breezy sunny day, and isn't easy to install but might be worth a try if everything else fails. Using half-inch Mylar tape (or silver and red bird scare tape which is available in some stores) you stretch the twisted tape, 1 to 3 feet high, using stakes around the area you’re protecting. For every 100 feet, the tape should be twisted four or five times. When the wind blows across the tape, it rattles while flashing from the reflected sunshine. The flashing and the rattling frightens the geese but if they've already flown into the yard, forget it.  You also need to make the fence long enough so the geese just don't walk around it, into your yard.
Simpler fencing  can be constructed from woven wire, chicken wire, plastic snow fence, corn cribbing, chain link, netting or a picket fence.  An effective barrier for walking geese uses durable material with opening no larger than 3 x 3 inches that is at least 30 inches high. (check your local ordinances before constructing though).

What about a doggie deterrent?  A dog who is on a fixed length chain or zip line, or within a fenced yard is no deterrent.  The geese soon realize he's not going to be able to get at them.  A dog running loose will deter birds but it's not necessarily safe for the dog who can get in harm's way if allowed to roam free (not to mention getting you a fine in some more suburban areas).

However, the occasional swim in the pond can do wonders.

Finally - Don't feed them.  Sure they're all cute and all but it's like public assistance, give some people a free handout and they'll never leave and get a job.


  1. Can you say Thanksgiving, Christmas, New years & any other days Dinner>

  2. Sooooo....feed them on your arsehole neighbor's lawn?

  3. Wonder how they would react to a large electric powered R/C aircraft?

  4. old oakie - OK, now I have stuffing recipes in my head.

    Ed - doesn't everyone have a pair?

    RabidAlien - unfortunately I'd still be in the traffic pattern.

    Well Seasoned Fool - awesome, and the shiny spinning end would discourage any mating attempts with it.

  5. Some years ago, a once high flying company where I'd worked fell upon hard times and had to give up its two yuppie palaces (for R&D and sales/ marketing/ executive types, respectively) in a tony "corporate campus." The fancy location had manmade ponds and of course some non-migratory, golf-course-type geese.

    Blowing through town for some reason or other a few years later, I took a nostalgia trip to the old workstead.

    The R&D building was still empty and for rent, and the proliferating geese had completely taken over its parking lot and entranceway. All that was missing was a line or two from "Ozymandis," possibly inscribed with a shovel in the expanse of greenish-gray goose mess.

  6. Red poop
    Blue poop
    Green poop
    Goose poop.

    -Someone who is decidedly not dr Seuss

  7. Tall fescue is a great option. Be sure that you have endophyte infected tall fescue. The endophyte content tends to nose-dive after the seed is over a year old.

    Some airports have successfully used Border Collies. Border Collies are less psychotic when they have real work to do.

    And there is always the Digital Dan solution that worked so well on Muscovy Ducks and redheaded mail delivery personnel.

  8. Over the years, I've found that they really, REALLY don't like it when you pull up to a gaggle of them blocking the road and start laying on the horn.

  9. Yeah, we have them here all year around.


  10. A Daisy Red Rider worked for me. It won't penetrate but irritates the hell out of them. Also kinda fun.

  11. 'Goose - the bathroom'
    Nope, never happened to me, but I'm somewhat conservative.



  12. I wonder why some geese migrate while others don't. Where I live the winters are real winter, it can get -25, and stay below zero for weeks at a time, yet there are a few still here, walking around on the frozen ponds and grass. We're on a main migratory path, but these hardy few stay.

    I wish geese were as good to eat as ducks; I can make an outstanding roast duck, but not much luck with geese.

  13. On the PRO side, they have nice breasts, especially when marinaded and grilled medium rare.

  14. Wasn't there a Beach Boys song about it?

    "Just a Little Goose Poop on the golf course hill,
    But you're slippin' and a slidin' and you can't stand still,"

  15. Never had any close-up and personal experience with the honkers, but now I'm starting to understand the connection between William Styron's watching a flock fly over his head and his simultaneous plunge into clinical depression.

  16. Supper is right... :-) Marinate the breast for 20-30 minutes, broil/bake to 170 degrees...

  17. Geese = Sky Carp.

    And when you're kayaking on the half-frozen lake, the goose poop is extra nasty!

  18. > I wonder why some geese migrate while others don't.

    The non migratory geese are separate populations of the migratory species (in the US your golf course geese are probably Branta canadensis maximus, the giant Canada goose) , which brings up the question of the extent to which migration is a learned rather than an instinctual behavior.

    Nonmigratory geese in the US were usually introduced as living decoys, which was legal until the 30s. I wonder if those first generations of them were farm raised, and/or their wings were clipped. If true, from there you can see how they couldn't teach their young to migrate, and within a few generations they've got the wings to go (plus or minus their soft suburban lifestyle) but no longer have the urge for going.

    And they don't. I'm told that they won't even join up with migrating flocks that rest among them for a day or two en route.

    You now know everything I do about the wildlife biology of the nonmigratory goose, some of it possibly true.

  19. shouldfishmore - I've actually not ever hunted or eaten goose (I won't hunt anything I wouldn't have on the dinner table).

    Just my 2cents - but now I want to bake one.

    Kalashnikat - ha!!!

    Mathew - :-) and there was probably some serious goose poop at Walden Pond as well.

    Monkeywrangler - sky carp. That's perfect!

    tombstone Charlie - welcome! And yes, indeed, they do!

    Adabsurdum - interesting. We certainly have some around here that appear to have no interest in ever leaving, even as population builds around them.

    BigFred - my pleasure :-)

  20. I thought geese were why god made .22 Magnum. Just sayin'.


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