by Terra Anders
Pack up a picnic basket, gather up the kids, apply the bug spray, and don’t forget the bread to feed the geese. Sound familiar? Children all over the world love feeding the geese. What picnic at the park would be complete without this childhood tradition? But what happens when the geese population increases so dramatically that they become a health hazard? City officials all over the United States are often burdened with goose control issues like this.
In Wisconsin, Mayor Paul Soglin has been under scrutiny for allowing city officials to kill about 350 Canadian geese at four city parks. The approval was given by Madison Parks Division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on June 25, 2011 after evidence of hazardous algae and bacteria had been found in some of the park lakes. The problem had become so bad that a couple of the parks had to be shut down during the busy season. Water supplies were compromised, and something had to be done to get a handle on the multiplying geese population. While several goose deterrent options for getting rid of the birds were presented, the choice to capture and kill a large quantity of the geese has certainly brought about a lot of controversy.
In a statement on June 28, 2011, Mayor Soglin confirmed that the about 200 Canada geese were indeed harvested and killed shortly after after the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a permit to kill the birds at four city parks. Citizen groups had been trying to prevent the killing in lieu of a more humane goose control method.
According to a recent WISC-TV report, although the killings did take place and the parks’ populations of geese were temporarily thinned, the geese have already begun to repopulate. Not only is killing a controversial goose control method, it is rarely successful in the long-run. Much more humane, non-lethal methods are available, and when put in place with forethought and intention, these kinder methods can be much more effective.
Canada geese like wide-open spaces. To help control bird populations, adding rocks, bushes, trees, hedges, or other types of barriers can modify the large open spaces of the park lawns. Plant these between the lawn and the water to discourage the geese. They won’t like having to take the long way around to the water.
It may be futile to stop people from feeding geese in the park. However, posting signs around the park, explaining the overpopulation problem and how people can help by discouraging feeding the birds this practice would certainly be an inexpensive educational tool worth investing in. Park staff might consider giving weekly informational classes to interested park-goers explaining the habits of the Canada geese and why they need to be controlled,
Spread non-toxic goose repellent on the area that is over-populated. This repellent is most often made with grape extract and methyl anthranilate, a combination that geese can not tolerate. Geese hang around the park because there is always a sufficient food supply. When this goose repellent is used, the geese will soon move on to other pastures looking for a more suitable food supply.
Removing abandoned nests in the winter season can sometimes stop geese from coming back in the spring.
Geese prefer low, trimmed grass, so maintaining an area of tall grass or flowers around a lake area can create both a visual and physical barrier to the geese.
Geese populations respond quite well to sound goose deterrent systems that broadcast a recorded distress call in an area for up to 6 acres. The system is completely programmable and can send out one to two minute distress calls at determined intervals. When geese hear this troubled cry, they become nervous and will leave the area in search of safer ground. This type of goose deterrent is weather-resistant and very effective in large open outdoor spaces like parks.
Goose control is not a passive event. It takes maintenance and persistence to convince birds to move out; and stay out. Geese that have become comfortable in a particular area will return year after year. Keeping an arsenal of bird control measures at the ready will be a park crew’s best plan.