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CANADA GEESE DAMAGE MANAGEMENT

HUMAN SAFETY ISSUES

Bird strikke hazard. Photo: USDA
Canada geese were the cause of the forced landing of the Miracle on the Hudson Flight in 2009. Photo: USDA

Bird Aircraft Strikes

One of the main public safety concerns regarding Canada geese (Branta canadensis) is collisions with aircraft, or “bird strike.” Collisions typically happen during takeoff or landing and usually involve a resident flock that lives in the city or near the airport year-round. Resident Canada geese are of particular concern because of their large size, flocking behavior, and use of airports for grazing (Dolbeer and Seubert. 2009). A large issue and growing concern in airports is the population of resident Canada geese in North America, which has increased about 4-fold from 1 million in 1990 to 3.9 million in 2008 (Federal Aviation Administration 2009).

The damage that Canada geese inflict economically and in human fatality and injury is tremendous because of their large size. From 1990 to 2008, 1181 bird strikes involving Canada geese were reported (Federal Aviation Administration 2002). Over half (603) of these strikes resulted in damage, with 317 of them resulting in negative effects. Multiple geese were involved in 509 of the strikes. These collisions resulted in total aircraft down time of 59,087 hours, with a reported cost of $50,902,670. Fifteen of these strikes resulted in 18 human injuries or fatalities, and four aircraft were damaged beyond repair.

One memorable strike occurred on January 15, 2009 when Canada geese were taken into both engines of an Airbus 320 and resulted in the forced landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River (Federal Aviation Administration 2009). Fortunately, no fatalities occurred, but this event amplified public awareness of bird strikes to aircraft.

One of the leading issues regarding strikes to aviation is the lack of reporting. Reasons for airport personnel to be hesitant of reporting incidents include not wanting to frighten the public out of flying, as well as time hold up and paperwork. The National Wildlife Strike Database of Civil Aviation became operational in 1995, and aims to be a useful source of information regarding the extent and nature of wildlife strikes. By recording each strike in a database, experts will be able to determine a species-specific count that will help professionals create a wildlife hazard management plan (WHMP) that will adhere to individual species (Dolbeer and Wright 2009).

Human Attacks

Canada geese are also a threat to human public safety when they attack people. In 1999, 107 cases of attacks by Canada geese on people and 94 traffic hazards due to Canada geese were reported (US Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Birds 2009). With Canada geese being in proximity to humans, the likelihood of an attack is greater. Attacks primarily occur during spring when Canada geese are nesting and can cause “serious physical injury, such as broken bones, head injuries, and emotional distress” (Ohio Department of Natural Resources 2010). The elderly and children are more prone to injuries because they “lack strength and maneuverability to avoid attacks” (US Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Migratory Birds 2009).

Female Canada goose laying on eggs. Photo by Amber Fandrich Canada goose nest of seven eggs. Photo by Amber Fandrich
Female Canada goose laying on eggs. Photo: Amber Fandrich Canada goose nest of 7 eggs. Photo Amber Fandrich

Resident Canada geese have lost their natural fear of humans because they are being fed and have been living in proximity to humans. Geese are building their nests “closer to areas that people frequent such as buildings, flower beds, parking lots, picnic tables, etc.” (Ohio Department of Natural Resources 2010). Canada geese select nesting areas in the early spring, usually between late February and early March, and females lay eggs starting in mid-March until mid-May. The male goose will protect the female and her eggs from anything perceived as a threat. If a human gets close to the nest, the gander will produce a warning call before beginning to chase away the threat. Females also hiss and give chase. Some will be very aggressive towards people, and they will only stop attacking after the person has left the area or if the life of the goose is in danger.

The Ohio Department of Natural Resources-Division of Wildlife (2010) states three guidelines to follow if a Canada goose attacks a person: 1. a person needs to keep their chest and face pointed in the direction of the goose while maintaining direct eye contact, 2. calmly and gradually back away if the goose begins to act violently, and 3. do not act aggressive or afraid and keep a neutral demeanor.

Vehicle Hazards

Canada geese also create traffic problems when people try to avoid hitting them as geese cross the road (US Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Birds 2009). Accidents occur because people try to stop suddenly or swerve to avoid contact. Lastly, Canada geese pose a hazard to human safety through their feces. Feces can make sidewalks, boardwalks, and other foot-traffic areas slippery causing injuries when the person falls (US Fish and Wildlife Service, Division of Migratory Birds 2009).

RECOMMENDED MANAGEMENT OPTIONS

Habitat Modification

Frightening

Repellents

Capture and Removal

Hunting

For details on management options visit Canada Goose Management

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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