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CANADA GEESE DAMAGE MANAGEMENT

PUBLIC HEALTH-WATER QUALITY ISSUES

Feces of Canada geese. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel
Many have raised concerns about the diseases found in the droppings of Canada geese. Photo Stephen M. Vantassel.

Water is of vital importance to every living organism on earth. Clean water is used in drinking, swimming, fishing, washing laundry, and many other tasks we do every day. Surface water monitoring is important to determine the quality of our water in order to help control pollution levels. Water quality influences not only environmental health but also human health and safety. The United States government has a determined water quality standard set in place depending on the use of that water. Water used for drinking purposes must be much cleaner than water used for crop irrigation. Approximately 45% of water tested from lakes, ponds, and reservoirs are deemed impaired, meaning the water is unable to support 1 or more of its intended uses (Southwest Florida Water Management District 2010). Excessive nutrient levels are the main cause of water pollution. Nitrogen and phosphorous are the primary pollutants. According to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, “this type of pollution has impaired more than 3.8 million acres of lakes, ponds, and reservoirs nationwide.” These over available nutrients result in algal blooms which kill other organisms requiring the use of oxygen.

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency has standards in place for about 90 different contaminants contained in drinking water (United States Environmental Protection Agency 2009). A maximum contaminant level, which is a legal limit, is set to provide standards that must be met. Water meeting these standards can be safely consumed however, individuals with compromised immune systems and children may have certain special requirements.

Eutrophication

The United States Geological Survey (2008) defines eutrophication as “a process whereby water bodies such as lakes, estuaries, or slow-moving streams receive excess nutrients that stimulate excessive plant growth, such as algae and nuisance plant weeds.” Rapid increases in population of algae can lead to death of organisms by limiting the amount of oxygen being dissolved in water systems as plant material decays. Water is then able to become hypoxic or “low in oxygen” (United States Geological Survey 2008). Pettigrew and Hahn et al. (1998) found that “Canada geese feces contain 14 mg of phosphorus and 5.7 mg of nitrogen using dry weight with 80% moisture content” (Pettigrew, Hahn et al. 1998). One study that was performed in Wisconsin discovered that waterfowl droppings can be a contributor to lake eutrophication in shallow lakes (1.5 meters mean depth) and can result in low outflow opportunities (Harris Jr., Ladowski 1981).

Studies have found that although waterfowl fecal matter can contribute inorganic nitrogen and phosphorus into fresh water lakes, the feces appeared to have a minimal impact (Pettigrew, Hahn 1998). Other researchers in salt water estuaries have argued that “Canada geese are not a significant source of new nitrogen because they simply recycle nitrogen already in the area. So their impact on estuary eutrophication is minimal at best” (Bowen and Valiela 2004). These studies are counter-intuitive as to how goose fecal matter can be abundant in plant growing nutrients, but not contribute to lake eutrophication in lakes that contain abundant numbers of Canada geese? Unckless and Makarewicz (2007) believe the reason for the argument can be resolved by identifying that fecal matter falls to the bottom of the lake, and are therefore unavailable. They caution, that fecal matter can still contribute to lake eutrophication when seasonal mixing, or human made mixing (boating and jet skies), occurs due to wind or other events that stir up lake sediment up for the bottom of the lake to the top.

Converse (1999) identifies multiple suggestive readings that state that small lakes can succumb to eutrophication by Canada goose droppings. French and Parkhurst (2009) state “Where resident goose populations are sizeable (>100 birds), the continuous influx of nutrients contained in Canada goose feces can contribute to the eutrophication of small water bodies, especially those that have restricted cir¬culation and flow-through, which in turn may stimulate algae and weed growth.”

Recommended Control Options

Habitat Modification

Border collie. Anthony Miller.
Border collies are a commonly used breed of dog that are effective in chasing geese. Photo: Lisa Carter

Hazing

Capture and Removal

For details on these techniques visit Goose Control Methods

 

Canada goose track. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel

Recommended Citation

Canada Goose Management Website. University of Nebraska-Lincoln, NRES 348 Wildlife Damage Management class, Spring Semester, 2010. Scott Hygnstrom, Instructor; Stephen Vantassel, Webmaster. http://icwdm.org/handbook/Birds/CanadadGeese/Default.aspx

Picture (left) is a Canada goose track. Photo: Stephen M. Vantassel

   
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