WATERFOWL DAMAGE IDENTIFICATION

Edward C. Cleary Fig. 1. Cliff swallow (Hirundo pyrrhonota) with nests on a building.
Assistant State Director
USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services
Sandusky, Ohio 44870

Fig. 1.  Geese, ducks, and other waterfowl may damage crops by feeding in fields.

Damage and Damage Identification

Goose problems in urban and suburban areas are primarily caused by giant Canada geese, which are probably the most adaptable of all waterfowl. If left undisturbed, these geese will readily establish nesting territories on ponds in residential yards, golf courses, condominium complexes, city parks, or on farms. Most people will readily welcome a pair of geese on a pond. They can soon turn from pet to pest, however. A pair of geese can, in 5 to 7 years, easily become 50 to 100 birds that are fouling ponds and surrounding yards and damaging landscaping, gardens, and golf courses. Defense of nests or young by geese and swans can result in injuries to people who come too close.

Migrant waterfowl damage agricultural crops in northern and central North American. In the spring, waterfowl graze and trample crops such as soybeans, sunflowers, and cereal grains. In autumn, swathed grains are vulnerable to damage by ducks, coots, geese, and cranes through feeding, trampling, and fouling. Young alfalfa is susceptible to damage by grazing waterfowl. Geese sometimes damage standing crops such as corn, soybeans, and wheat. In southern agricultural areas, overwintering waterfowl can cause problems in rice, lettuce, and winter wheat.

Mergansers, mallards, and black ducks cause problems at some aquaculture facilities by feeding on fish fry and fingerlings. Common eiders and black and surf scoters cause problems when they feed in commercial blue mussel and razor clam beds. For more information, see Bird Damage at Aquaculture Facilities.

Economics of Damage and Control

Waterfowl cause significant losses to agricultural and aquacultural crops, damage golf courses, cemeteries, lawns, and gardens, and contaminate reservoirs. Their activities can cause real economic hardship, aggravate nuisance situations, or create human health hazards. A reliable figure for the total national economic loss caused by waterfowl does not exist. The following examples serve to illustrate the magnitude of the problem, however.

In 1960, waterfowl caused an estimated $12.6 million worth of damage to ripening small grains on the Canadian prairies. In 1980, waterfowl were credited with causing $454,000 worth of damage to small grains in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota combined.

The 1989 appraised crop losses due to goose damage totaled $105,000 in the four Wisconsin counties surrounding Horicon Marsh National Wildlife Refuge (NWR). It is estimated that in the autumn of 1989 over 1 million interior Canada geese passed through Horicon Marsh NWR. This area has one of the largest and most active goose damage abatement programs in the country, with an annual budget of more than $135,000.

Goose damage to golf courses is difficult to quantify. A survey in 1982 of 219 golf courses in the eastern United States, however, indicated that 26% had nuisance Canada goose problems. It is not uncommon for geese to cause $2,000 to $3,000 damage per year to a golf course. Two golf course superintendents in the greater Cleveland, Ohio, area estimated that Canada geese caused between $2,000 and $2,500 worth of property damage to each of their courses in 1989. Three other golf course superintendents, in the same geographic area, estimated that they spend $1,000 a year just cleaning up Canada goose droppings, exclusive of any direct property damage.

Editors

Scott E. Hygnstrom; Robert M. Timm; Gary E. Larson

Prevention and Control of Wildlife Damage Logo 1994

PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF WILDLIFE DAMAGE — 1994

Cooperative Extension Division Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources University of Nebraska -Lincoln

United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Animal Damage Control

Great Plains Agricultural Council Wildlife Committee

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