Scene: An executive is walking through a parking lot on a spacious, green campus in North Carolina, admiring the scenery. Suddenly, a squawk — and an angry Canada goose goes into defense mode, chasing the executive across the parking lot.
It may sound comical, but it is a true story — and the impetus behind Steritech selling a goose management job. For businesses around the country, particularly those with expansive lawns and parking lots, the arrival of Canada geese can also bring problems. In addition to scenarios like this one, geese can create serious, unsightly messes; one goose can create up to three pounds of fecal matter in a single day.
Many businesses think that a goose issue is something they have to tolerate, chalking it up to a seasonal issue that they can’t control. What they don’t realize is that with some simple landscape management practices and the assistance of a trained pest or wildlife management professional, geese issues can be a thing of the past. (The calendar on page 84 lays out an estimated timeline for goose management practices.)
Like many bird species, Canada geese are federally protected, so it is absolutely imperative that a pest or wildlife management professional undertaking a goose management program be well-versed on laws and know what permits are necessary to complete any of these procedures.
When constructing a goose management plan, it can be broken down into four types of management practices. Each of these management practices can entail any number of strategies:
1. Landscape Management
- Lines of vision around water features
- Water feature bank management
- Grass maintenance
2. Turf Treatments
- Feeding repellents
- Methyl anthraniliate hazing
- Drones and remote control boats
4. Population Management
- Egg oiling or egg and nest removal
- Round up and relocation
As strange as it seems, goose management begins with landscaping practices. It’s one of the things that can be done year-round to discourage geese from a facility and takes no special permit to perform. There are three main landscaping practices to consider when thinking about geese.
Obstruct lines of vision around water features. Geese like to have a clear line of sight to their surroundings, so something as simple as placing hedges around an ornamental pond may keep geese away. If they can’t see what’s nearby, they’ll be less likely to take up residence on a property.
Water feature bank management. While sloping banks are more aesthetically pleasing, they make it easy for geese to walk in and out of water features. Consider steeper drop offs to banks to limit geese access.
Maintain grass between 6 and 8 inches. This practice goes counter to what most landscaping companies want — but its one of the best things you can do for the environment AND it deters geese at the same time. Geese typically graze on grass; in fact, one goose can eat up to four pounds of grass a day. Short grass tastes better to them. When grass is kept at a length of 6 to 8 inches, it grows more roots and its stem is “woodier.” This isn’t as appetizing to geese, so less food availability means fewer geese. At the longer length, grass grows slower, so it requires less maintenance — meaning fewer emissions from lawn mowers and other maintenance equipment. Finally, grass at this longer length helps prevent erosion.
Turf treatments are product applications made to vegetation that can make an area unpleasant for geese to inhabit. Turf treatments should be conducted during months when geese are likely to be nesting and raising their young — typically March to September. Adult geese will not abandon their young, so harassment procedures are ineffective during this season. It is important to note that these turf treatments do not harm the geese and have no long-term effects on them.
Feeding repellents. Applied to areas where geese feed, these non-toxic products change the taste of vegetation for a goose, making it unpalatable. They don’t harm vegetation and are great, environmentally friendly ways to counter activity. The typical active ingredient is methyl anthranilate (MA), which is non-toxic to other non-target wildlife.
Irritants. These products are applied to shrubs and other areas where geese graze. They work similarly to an itching powder. When the goose contacts the area, the product gets on their feathers or into their eyes, throat, or other open membranes, causing irritation that makes them uncomfortable. This may cause them to find an area inhospitable and relocate. Although geese will not leave their young, applying irritants to areas closer to buildings and paths where people travel can force geese to outer areas of a property.
Methyl anthranilate hazing. A chemical compound that can be found naturally in grapes, jasmine, and citrus fruits, methyl anthranilate — MA for short — is a chemical compound that is useful in deterring many types of birds. Methyl anthranilate irritates birds’ trigeminal nerve, causing birds temporary irritation in their beak, eyes and throat; think of it as causing a reaction similar to that pepper spray might have on a human. MA can be applied as a hazing treatment to areas where geese are active, serving as another way to make an area inhospitable for geese.
Goose harassment requires a great amount of skill and knowledge for pest and wildlife management professionals and should not be undertaken by amateurs; depending on the type of harassment, permits from federal or state agencies may be required. Harassment procedures are typically conducted from September through February when geese are pond hopping and foraging for food. Harassment services often require repeat performance to achieve success.
Green lasers. Green lasers have been successfully used for a number of years now to help relocate bird populations without harm to the birds. Green laser treatment must be conducted by a trained pest or wildlife management professional to avoid interfering with neighboring properties, aircraft, or freeways. Lasers are aimed directly at geese. The frequency of the laser beam makes the bird uncomfortable and causes it to relocate.
Pyrotechnics. In layman’s terms, fireworks. Pyrotechnics are set off by professionals. The loud noises scare geese away from a property. There are a number of downsides to pyrotechnics. Relief is often temporary, resulting in the need for additional treatments. The loud noise can be extremely disruptive, especially for neighboring properties. One note of caution: some groups may suggest firearms to discharge pyrotechnics. Due to the potential for the public to misconstrue the use of firearms, I would recommend steering clear of this method of deployment.
Canines. Trained canines can be used to frighten geese from a property. A canine harassment program should be conducted by a professional handler to avoid harm to the birds.
Drones and remote control boats. Technology has introduced new, effective and less intensive methods of harassment. Drones can be used to frighten geese from an aerial point of view, while remote control boats can be used to scare geese off of water features. As with all methods of harassment, these types of services should be conducted by a professional to ensure that they do not interfere with air or waterway traffic or harm the birds.
Population management services can also be conducted to control goose activity. Pest or wildlife management professionals, as well as their clients, should be aware of the potential public relations issues involved in conducting these services. Permits from state and/or federal agencies, such as the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or Canadian Wildlife Service will be required for population management practices.
Egg oiling or egg and nest removal. The most sensitive of goose management procedures, egg oiling or egg and nest removal, can be options considered during nesting season, March through May. Egg oiling is the process of having a trained professional dip eggs in a mineral oil that prevents them from hatching. Adult geese will continue to sit on the nest, but when the egg doesn’t hatch, will leave the area and be unlikely to return for other nesting seasons because it will consider the area inhospitable to breeding. Egg and nest removal is more difficult and involves removing goose nests and any eggs in them from the property. This option will not prevent adult geese from rebuilding a nest and laying eggs elsewhere on the property. Egg oiling should always be the preferred option, but in cases where geese are attacking or disrupting human traffic to protect a nest, egg and nest removal may be the better choice.
Roundup and relocation. During molting, typically June and July, geese become flightless. With permits, trained professionals can conduct roundup and relocation services.
Although it requires extensive knowledge of laws, permits, and specialized procedures, goose management is an excellent source of additional revenue for pest or wildlife management companies that are skilled in performing it. If you’re looking for ways to amp up your revenue production, take a look around at the commercial clients you service. Is there a goose opportunity that’s going unrealized?
Mike Givlin is vice president, North American Bird Program, The Steritech Group. He has more than 20 years of bird/wildlife management experience.