Canada Goose Damage Prevention and Control Methods

Identification | Biology | Damage ID | Management | Resources

Overview of Damage Prevention
and Control Methods

Habitat Modification

  • Grow trees to interfere with flight lines 
  • Allow grass to grow tall, avoid fertilizing 
  • Eliminate public feeding of geese 
  • Create vegetative or stone barriers near water 
  • Plant fescues 

Exclusion

  • Grid wires 
  • Fences, non-electric and electric 

Frightening

  • Human, coyote effigies 
  • Flags, balloons, and Mylar® tape 
  • Remote controlled boats or aircraft 
  • Lasers  
  • Pyrotechnics, propane cannons, and Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) 
  • Bio-acoustic alarm and distress calls 
  • Herding dogs 

Repellents

  • Anthraquinone  
  • Methyl anthranilate 

Toxicants

  • None registered 

Shooting

  • Hunting through regular, depredation, and resident Canada goose seasons 
  • Sharpshooting with shotguns, suppressors, Metrobarrels, and subsonic rounds 

Trapping

  • Netting 
  • Roundups 

Other Control Methods

  • Nest Control  
  • Egg-addling, oiling, and puncturing 

Damage Prevention and
Control Methods

Haze geese as soon as they begin to inhabit an area to avoid their becoming established in the location. After nests are constructed, hazing is no longer a viable option for family groups until the molt has ended. It can be effective to haze adult geese with no young prior to the molt to encourage migration. 

Between 1991 and 1997, 16,949 civilian aircraft-wildlife strikes were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration. The number of reported strikes is likely about 20% of the number that actually occurred. The US Air Force reports it has 3,000 strikes by birds each year. About 90% of the strikes on aircraft occur on or near airfields when aircraft are below 2,000 feet in elevation. Gulls (32%), waterfowl, such as geese, (31%) and raptors (17%) were involved in 80% of the reported bird strikes in which damage to airplanes occurred.  

Habitat Modification

Plant trees around small ponds (less than ½ acre) to interfere with lines of flight. Geese prefer short, green grass or other herbaceous vegetation for feeding. Well-manicured lawns and areas that are newly seeded provide excellent habitat for geese. Wherever possible, let grass or other vegetation grow to full height (10 to 14 inches) around bodies of water to make areas less attractive to geese. In time, most geese stop feeding in those areas. Communities should enact ordinances to prohibit the feeding of geese (Figure 6). 

Figure 6. An important part of an integrated approach to management of damage by geese is to prohibit the feeding of geese. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Geese prefer clear lines of sight, so avoid straight paths to water: plant native shrubs to block the line of sight. Install large stones or cut steep banks to make travel between water and land more difficult for geese (Figure 7).  

Figure 7. Large stones can interfere with the movement of geese between water and land.  
Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Plant species that are less palatable to geese, including some that go dormant in the winter, such as ivy, pachysandra, or junipers. Geese tend to prefer Kentucky bluegrass and are less attracted to fescue. Minimize the use of fertilizers to reduce the nutritional value of grass. 

Islands and peninsulas often are preferred for nesting and support more geese than shorelines on the mainland. Avoid creating such features during landscaping. Local zoning regulations may be a way to discourage development of habitats for geese. 

Exclusion

Geese normally rest on open water or along shorelines and they tend to land and take off from open water. Where practical, construct a system of suspended wires over water to deny birds access to such areas. Single strands of 14-gauge wire, 80 to 100 pound test monofilament line or stainless steel cable can be arranged in a grid with 10 to 15 feet between wires. Each wire must be secured so that it remains 12 to 18 inches above the water surface. Perimeter fences may be needed to keep geese from walking under the grid. To reduce the risk of birds flying into the wires, attach brightly colored rope, flagging, or other markers to make the wires more visible. 

Grid-wire systems are not practical for areas more than 1 acre, or for water that is used for swimming, fishing, or other types of recreation. Golf course ponds, reflecting pools, wastewater ponds, and newly seeded lawns with limited access to the public may be suitable. Vandalism of grid wires may be a problem in public areas. 

Fences can be effective where geese land on water and walk up onto adjacent lawns. Fences should be at least 30 inches tall and solidly constructed. Welded-wire fences made with 2- x 4-inch mesh is durable and will last for many years. Less expensive plastic or nylon netting is effective but must be replaced more often.  

Fences work best during the summer molt, when geese are unable to fly and must walk between areas for feeding and resting. Fences, dense shrubbery, or other physical barriers installed close to the edge of the water are effective ways to control the movements of geese that are molting. Fences must completely enclose the site to be effective. Fences also may be used to block aggressive birds on nests near buildings or walkways. Fences around large open areas, such as athletic fields or ponds, have little effect on free-flying birds. 

Snow fence or erosion control fabric may be used as a temporary barrier for geese that are molting. Fences made of 2 parallel monofilament fish lines (20-pound test), strung 6 inches and 12 inches above ground, and secured by stakes at 6-foot intervals can work, but are less reliable.  

Successful control of geese has been reported with high-voltage electric fences. Two strands of at least 17-gauge wire are needed, 8 inches and 16 inches off the ground respectively, or 3 strands at 5, 10, and 15 inches off the ground.  

Frightening Devices

Frightening devices may be used for short-term control of nuisance behaviors, before geese become habituated to a location. Do not use frightening devices when geese are nesting or flightless. Human-operated frightening devices tend to be more effective than stationary ones. Consider the timing of frightening activities, as geese may flee into traffic or aircraft.  

Locate stationary frightening devices where they will not become entangled or obstructed by branches of trees or power lines. Devices may be subject to theft or vandalism in areas that are open to the public. Frequently relocate devices that are stationary to avoid acclimation by geese. Geese quickly learn whether something poses a real danger and they quickly habituate to most devices. When the birds become habituated, the devices lose effectiveness.  

Visual

Visual devices may be used to create an image that geese avoid, especially if they are not already established on a site. Quietness is a key advantage of visual frightening devices and makes them a suitable tool for use in populated areas. Visual frightening devices are not likely to be effective on suburban lawns where there are trees or other objects overhead, or in areas where geese have been established for years. Effigies of humans (e.g., scarecrow) or predators (Figure 8) attempt to depict visual threats to geese. Effigies with moving or flapping parts are more effective than non-moving ones. Reposition effigies every several days.  

Flags or balloons can be placed on poles (6 feet or taller) in and around an area to be protected. Geese normally are reluctant to linger beneath an object hovering overhead. Flags can be made of 3- to 6-foot strips of 1-inch colored plastic tape, or 2- x 2-foot pieces of orange flagging. Balloons, with large eye-spots and filled with helium are sold at some garden or party supply stores. Several flags or balloons may be needed to protect each acre of open lawn. 

Mylar-style tape reflects sunlight to produce a flashing effect and may be an effective deterrent for geese (Figure 9). When the tape moves in the breeze, it pulsates and produces a humming sound that repels birds. Secure 6- x 30-inch strips of Mylar-style tape to 4-foot wooden stakes. Reinforce at the sites of attachment to prevent tearing of tape by the wind.  

Remote controlled boats have been successfully used to haze geese (Figure 10). Select boats that are appropriate to the size of the body of water. Boats work best when the water is calm on relatively small ponds that are 5 acres or less. Boats can be used in conjunction with pyrotechnics in some areas to increase effectiveness. 

Red and green lasers have proven effective for dispersing geese at night from lakes less than 20 acres in size. Use lasers as soon as darkness permits. Point lasers several yards in front of geese that are floating, and slowly move the dot closer. Geese will be easier to move if lasers are used during several successive nights. Always keep the beam below the line of the horizon. Do not point the beam at buildings, people, or planes. High-powered spotlights can produce the same effect. 

Audio

Geese also may be discouraged from an area through the use of noisemakers. Noisemakers work best as preventive measures before geese become established in an area and where they must fly to get away from the noise. At sites with a history of frequent use by geese and people, the birds may become acclimated in 1 to 2 weeks. Noisemakers may be prohibited or unsuitable in urban areas. Check with local law enforcement agencies about ordinances for noise control, codes for fire safety, or restrictions on possession and discharge of firearms before using any of these techniques. Obtain permits if necessary. In some areas, starter pistols are considered handguns, and their possession and use may be regulated.  

Where discharge of firearms is allowed, occasional shooting of geese can increase the effectiveness of noisemakers, as geese associate the sound with a real threat. Federal and state permits are needed to shoot geese outside of established hunting seasons. 

Pyrotechnics are special fireworks that are launched from a 12-gauge shotgun or starter pistol. Shell crackers are fired from a 12-gauge shotgun that project a firecracker up to 100 yards. Other devices, such as screamer sirens, bird-bangers, and whistle bombs, are fired into the air from a hand-held 6-mm pistol launcher. They generally have a range of 25 to 50 yards. Read and follow safety instructions before using pyrotechnics. 

Propane cannons ignite propane gas to produce loud explosions at timed intervals. They are effective for migrant geese in agricultural fields, but are not suitable for residential or public areas. 

Long Range Acoustic Devices (LRAD) project a high decibel sound (up to 153 dB) from 200 to 300 yards. The closer the animal, the higher the decibel. The LRAD is useful for hazing birds off of surfaces such as airports, parks, and golf courses.  

Alarm and distress calls of Canada geese have been used to disperse geese from areas with varying results. Geese may only move to another side of the pond and may acclimate to the calls, but a commercially available device (Goose-Be-GoneTM) is purported to overcome some of the reported limitations.  

Dogs

Dogs that are trained to chase geese are very effective for controlling geese. Dogs are used to disperse geese from golf courses, parks, athletic fields, airports, and corporate properties. Breeds with instincts for herding, such as border collies, tend to work best. The act of hazing with dogs is most practical where the dog and handler are on-site at all times, or where daily service is available. The dogs must be closely supervised and, except where permitted, in compliance with local leash laws or park regulations. Initially, chasing must be done several times per day for several weeks, after which less frequent, regular patrols will be needed. Another approach is to allow dogs to roam freely in a fenced (above ground or “invisible” dog fence) area that is not open to the public but this may be less effective. Geese do not acclimate to being chased by dogs.

The use of dogs may not be practical near busy roads or where a property is divided into many small sections by physical barriers. Dogs cannot easily repel geese from large areas of water, but may be able to keep geese off shorelines or beaches.  

Repellents

The commercial use of repellents requires the applicator to be a state-certified pesticide applicator. Special training is necessary to apply chemical repellents safely. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved the use of anthraquinone and methyl anthranilate (MA) as goose repellents on lawns. Geese feed less often on lawns that have been treated because they experience nausea or pain associated with the repellents. Geese still may walk across areas that have been treated to get to untreated areas. 

Repellents lose effectiveness over time. The active ingredients typically are coupled with a chemical that can be seen in the ultraviolet spectrum. Geese can see this spectrum and avoid areas that have been treated. The products are expensive and therefore are most practical in only small areas.  

Weekly mowing of turf areas will remove the repellent, so reapplication may be necessary. Always follow directions on product labels. Methyl anthranilate is a human-safe flavoring for food that is derived from grapes. It may be applied by fogging (Figure 11) to cause geese to leave immediately. 

Figure 11. Methyl anthranilate may be dispersed using a large fan. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.  

Toxicants

No toxicants are registered for the control of Canada geese. 

Shooting

Hunt geese to help slow the growth of resident flocks. Some birds can be removed with hunting, while others will be discouraged from returning. The act of hunting increases the effectiveness of noisemakers, as geese may learn that loud noises may be a real threat. 

Opportunities for hunting in urban and suburban areas often are limited by lack of open space and local ordinances prohibiting the discharge of firearms. Open shorelines, reservoirs, and large private properties, such as golf courses where access can be controlled, are good places to try hunting as an option for control. 

A Federal Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp is required to hunt waterfowl, including Canada geese, in addition to state hunting permits and licenses. Several states manage special hunting seasons to reduce the number of non-migratory geese. Most start in September, before the regular waterfowl hunting seasons and near urban areas where geese congregate. Hunters should check local laws regarding permits and the discharge of firearms. Landowners that are concerned about potential conflicts can limit the number of hunters and times they allow hunting on their property. For more information about hunting geese, contact your state wildlife agency. 

A high-powered pellet rifle (.177-caliber) or .22-caliber rifle can be used to remove individual or injured birds. A great deal of skill and discretion is required to kill birds quickly and humanely. Sub-sonic .22-caliber loads can be used to minimize noise in urban areas. The use of guns over water poses a great risk of ricochet. A 12-gauge shotgun with No. 6 non-toxic shot directed at the head and neck (Figure 12) is a good alternative. A Metrobarrel and subsonic loads can be used to minimize noise. Shooting geese outside the regulated hunting season requires special permits. 

Figure 13 (above). A WCS Netblaster™ uses compressed air to launch a net. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel.

Figure 12 (left). Target showing proper placement of a shot for rifle or pellet gun (small circles around eye) and shotgun (large dotted lines). Image by Dee Ebbeka.

Trapping

Canada geese can be captured by nets that are propelled over a feeding location.  

This method is used only when geese are able to fly. If geese are molting, roundups typically are used. Nets launched with rockets or other explosive charges require special permits and safety precautions. The WCS Netblaster™ does not require additional permits because it uses compressed air (Figure 13). Users must be cautioned that the NetBlaster™ is quite loud when it is launched.   

Prebait an area with corn or other attractants and only launch nets when a large group is in the target area and feeding. At least 2 people are required for successful netting and more are better. One person must remain behind the net to launch it and the other must be at the side to call for the net to be fired. Both people are needed to ensure that geese are properly positioned in the area intended for capture. After the net is launched, people should rapidly approach the net to subdue the geese to prevent injuries and escapes. Quickly grab geese by the base of the wings, or hold their wings tightly to the body, and place the birds into holding cages. Canada geese can injure people and each other by hitting with their wings, biting, and scratching.  

All capture of geese should be conducted by experienced personnel with appropriate permits. Disposition of geese that have been captured often is a concern. The public often opposes lethal control and translocation may move problem geese to another area. Nets are used most often for banding geese and research purposes. 

Roundups

The capture and removal of Canada geese while they are molting is an effective method of control (Figure 14). Geese are flightless for a relatively short period of the year, so this technique is feasible only during early summer. Roundups can significantly reduce the number of geese in a given area. Federal and state permits are required. 

Figure 14. Roundup of Canada geese waiting to be tagged. Photo by Stephen M. Vantassel. 

Roundups involve driving geese from the water to a fenced area on shore, where they are corralled and removed. Set up the corral and associated fences where geese can easily walk from the shore and into the corral. Areas that are shaded and situated away from the public are best for roundups. The corral or fence must be at least 48 inches tall and made of plastic or cotton to prevent injuries to the geese. The fence may be constructed from a large net hung with poles every 15 to 20 feet or by attaching nets to rectangular frames made from PVC pipes. Four (or more) netted frames sized 4 x 6 feet allow the sections of netting to be stacked for storage.

With the nets positioned in a crescent shape with the open end facing the water in the form of a funnel, use canoes or remote-control boats to guide geese toward the shore where the fences and corral are located.  

Careful planning is required for successful roundups. Conduct roundups in the morning before temperatures reach 90°F to protect geese from heat stress. The minimum number of technicians necessary for any roundup is 2. One technician should be on shore and the other in the water. Roundups with 30 to 40 geese could require 4 to 5 personnel. Technicians should be quiet and patient. Geese will move away quickly from people and boats. Take care to keep the geese together and directed toward the proper shore.  

After geese are on shore, herd them along the fences and corral by walking slowly, hands outstretched. When the geese have been herded into the corral, close the netted panels. The geese can then be hand captured by wildlife personnel. Canada geese tend to congregate on the side of the corral farthest from people. In large groups, the juveniles may be trampled, so they should be removed first. Young “fluffy” geese should be kept separate from the larger geese to prevent their being injured. Move captured geese into the holding cages quickly. A special trailer with sufficient ventilation and racks for holding cages is ideal.  

In large areas, it may be necessary to remove geese for several years to reduce densities. After geese are removed, the capture site will have substantially fewer geese for the rest of the summer or longer. Over time, geese from surrounding areas may move in if preventive measures are not in place. Geese that are removed from problem areas can be processed and donated to charities for use as food. If properly handled by a licensed poultry processor, meat from geese is a healthy and well-received source of food for many people. 

Handling

Relocation

Relocation of geese is not effective except in rescue situations.  

Translocation

Geese that are translocated short distances (less than 50 miles) may return when they are able to fly. Adult geese are most likely to return, whereas goslings moved without their parents often join a local flock and remain in the area of release. Some geese that are translocated return to the location of capture by the following summer. Many wildlife professionals are concerned that translocating wildlife increases the risk of spreading diseases to wildlife in other areas. 

Euthanasia

Federal permits are required to kill Canada geese. Geese are easily euthanized with carbon dioxide. Geese also may be euthanized by cervical dislocation, which requires training, strength, and skill.  

Disposal

Check state regulations regarding disposal of carcasses.  

Other Control Methods

Nest Control

Canada geese usually return in spring to the area where they hatched, or where they previously nested, which often leads to an increase in the number of geese in areas that once had just a few birds. Local growth of populations may be controlled by preventing geese from successfully nesting. Although it is difficult to eliminate habitat, harassment in early spring may prevent geese from nesting on a particular site. The geese may still nest nearby where they are not subject to harassment.

Egg Destruction

If prevention of nesting fails, eggs can be treated to prevent hatching. Destruction of eggs can be done by puncturing, shaking, freezing, or applying corn oil to all of the eggs in a nest. The female goose will continue incubating the eggs until the nesting season is over. If the nest is destroyed, or all the eggs are removed, the female likely will lay new eggs.  

Destruction of eggs reduces the number of geese that will be present on a site later in the year. Geese without young will more easily be repelled from a site after the nesting season. If conducted on a large scale (throughout a town), treatment of eggs can help slow the growth of a local population of geese and lead to stable or declining numbers. Treatment of eggs may be necessary for 5 to 10 years before effects on populations are evident. 

Federal and state regulations may apply to any disturbance or treatment of Canada goose nests or eggs. Federal rules only require that persons register on-line before initiation of the destruction of eggs.