Canada geese are harmless birds, but killing has become a common (and short-term only) solution in many communities. While killing Canada geese is extremely inhumane, it also does not solve any issues long-term because a new flock will just replace the one exterminated. The best long-term solutions rely in treating the conflicts at its source – by making areas disagreeable for the birds.
Canada geese should not be killed, especially when effective and humane solutions exist.
Limiting Flock Growth
Probably the most humane and effective solution to goose conflicts is to limit flock growth and stabilize populations. This can be done by keeping eggs from hatching in a process known as “addling.”
Addling is done by treating eggs with corn oil or by removing the eggs from the nest, which is humane if done in a very early stage of development. It limits the number of geese in a flock, and also frees adult geese from tending to their babies, so they can be encouraged to move out of the area where the conflicts are occurring.
If addling sounds like something you and your community are interested in taking on, some training will be required. Humane Action Pittsburgh recommends HSUS as a resource for further learning about how addling can humanely and effectively solve your Canada goose conflicts. Note that you may will permission from the Pennsylvania Game Commission first.
Humanely Scaring Geese
Canada geese will not leave their babies until they can fly at the end of summer. If geese are tending to their goslings, the techniques described below are not a humane option.
- Goose-Herding Dogs: If geese are not tending to babies, the most effective way to scare them away is with trained goose-herding dogs. Note that this should only be done by specially trained dogs working with a handler. If dogs are not handled properly, this method may not be effective. Also note that specially trained dogs should not catch or harm geese, and the dogs should be treated well and kept safe on the job. Remember, do not scare away geese tending to their young!
- Light: Lasers and other light-emitting devices that are specifically designed to scare birds can be useful at dusk when the geese are turning in for the night.
- Chemical Repellents: Chemicals can be used as a fog or spray to keep geese away from specific areas. The most common is methyl anthranilate, a nontoxic grape-flavored repellent used as a food additive by humans, but makes grass unpalatable to Canada geese. It is marketed in products such as ReJeXiT and GooseChase and trains geese to leave certain areas alone.
- Noises: Scary noises made from devices like pyrotechnics and propane cannons, or recordings of goose distress calls can be effective. However, geese do tend to become accustomated to noises quickly, and these will be most successful when used in conjunction with other methods described above.
What NOT to use? Because geese are so smart, things like flags, dead goose decoys, floating alligator heads, fake owls and snakes, and scarecrows typically will not work.
Creating a Disagreeable Habitat
The best long-term solutions in solving conflicts with geese (and usually the most cost-efficient) are to create a disagreeable habitat that the geese will not want to live in.
- Take away food sources.
- Reduce the total amount of lawn.
- Where you keep lawn, reduce the young grass shoots geese like the most. Let grass grow taller—at least six inches and leave taller grass over winter. Stop or limit watering and fertilizing in the spring.
- Replace Kentucky bluegrass (a.k.a. “goose candy”) with other grasses such as tall fescue. This works where geese can eat somewhere else. They will eat fescue and almost any short grass or legume if that’s all there is.
- To reduce food for a short period, treat grass with chemical repellents. Anthraquinone triggers a strong, harmless digestive irritation and teaches geese to avoid treated areas. Methyl anthranilate is a grape flavoring in our food. To geese, it just tastes really bad. Repellents must be reapplied after heavy rains or when growing grass is mowed, so plan their use when it can be most effective.
- Do not feed geese! Human food is not healthy for them and geese will gather where they are fed.
- Use dense tall plantings along shorelines to make a barrier between the food and the water.
- Add variety to landscaping with clumps of taller plantings where predators could hide.
- Locate ball fields and other grassy expanses as far from open water as possible.
- Maintain or establish stands of trees between water and grass so geese can’t fly through.
Are Round-Ups a Good Solution?
In a word – no. They are inhumane, ineffective, and completely unnecessary.
Geese who are rounded up are often packed in small crates and taken to slaughterhouses to be killed and processed. Since Canada geese are federally protected, their meat cannot be sold. Instead, they are sometimes offered to food banks. This may make it seem they were killed for a noble purpose, but providing food to the needy is not the motivation for these round-ups.
If the geese are not taken to the slaughterhouse, they are sometimes killed by lethal gas and then dumped in trash bags.
The worst part is, these round-ups do not solve the root problem since more geese will just move in where the old ones no longer live. As mentioned above, there are many humane solutions that will solve the problem long-term.
Further, remember that Canada geese are protected federally. If you are harming geese on public or private property, it is possible you could be breaking the law.
Please note, Humane Action Pittsburgh (HAP) is not a wildlife rescue and is unable to address concerns or assist with wildlife emergencies. Please utilize the resources on our website to find the appropriate organization to contact. Submissions to HAP through our contact form or email will not be able to be addressed.