The Canada goose (Branta canadensis), sometimes mistakenly referred to as the "Canadian" goose, is a water bird native to North America. We most often become aware of them when they are flying, during which time they make their presence known by their call, which is a honk, and visually, by the V-formations in which they fly.
Herbivores, Canada geese eat both aquatic plants, such as eelgrass, and terrestrial foods, such as grass, grains, and berries. They spend much of their time in and around fresh water, though they also can be found in places like cornfields (a food source for them). This was especially so before Canada geese adapted themselves to an urban and suburban lifestyle. Now, when not in or around water, they spend much of their time on grass, including in parks, at airports, on college campuses, on golf courses, and on the lawns of homeowners. Canada geese sometimes (but not always) migrate south for the winter. As they adapt to environments in which humans have made their lives easier, they are tending more and more not to fly south for the winter.
In all such environments, they may be regarded as pests, mainly because of their excrement. As large birds, their excrement is of a considerable size; and since Canada geese tend to arrive on a property in flocks, many culprits will be contributing to the mess. Their excrement is objectionable in a number of ways.
4 Ways to Get Rid of Geese
If Canada geese are plaguing your property, there are a few things you can do to get rid of them. There are visual ways to control geese (so-called "sight aversions"), but you can also impact their sense of smell, hearing, or touch to drive them away. Be prepared to adopt more than one of these measures, since geese that want to dine on a lawn badly enough can be remarkably tolerant and may need convincing on multiple levels.
Visual Ways to Scare Geese Away
The coyote is a natural predator that Canada geese fear. Take advantage of this fact and buy a coyote decoy to deploy on the lawn. The geese will recognize the shape and color as being that of a predator that they fear and will stay away.
If you own a dog that is allowed to spend time in the yard, the dog can essentially be substituted for a coyote (both being canines). Indeed, the dog will be more effective than a decoy because a charging dog represents imminent danger, whereas the decoy is stationary and merely suggests danger. But allowing dogs in your landscaping poses its own set of problems. If you do decide to opt for this way of getting rid of geese, you are covering multiple bases, since:
- Seeing the dog will scare geese away.
- Smelling the dog (and its urine) will alert them that a predator is present.
- Hearing the dog barking will strike fear into the geese instantly.
Scarecrows can be effective for goose control. Make them as realistic as possible. Flags or other objects that blow in the wind can also catch a goose's eye and scare it away. Holographic tape blowing in the wind has the added advantage of reflecting sunlight, which geese find disorienting. Especially effective are the eye-spot balloons or kites. These are designed in such a way that the menacing eyeballs seem to follow you wherever you go. Hang them in trees so that they blow around, producing the kind of movement that suggests a real predator. Move them around once in a while to prevent geese from getting used to them being in one particular spot.
To kill two birds with one stone, if you will, simply install a motion sensor light in the problem area; it will not only scare the geese when they see it turn on but also deter criminal activity on your property.
Impacting the Geese's Sense of Smell
Smell and taste are so closely associated with each other that they are essentially treated as one category in listing goose repellents. The disadvantage of all products that impact a goose's sense of smell/taste is that they have to be applied again after it rains and after you mow the lawn.
Applying predator urine to the lawn can be effective at repelling geese. The geese smell the urine and assume that the predator in question is present.
Like using predator urine, chemical repellents offer an option for goose control. You can buy them at most home improvement centers. For example, Anthraquinone and methyl anthranilate are known to be effective. The former irritates the digestive systems of the geese, while the latter simply tastes bad.
You can buy repellents infused with concord grapes that are designed specifically to keep Canada geese away because of the scent, which, for some odd reason, they find repulsive.
Scaring Geese Away With Sounds
There are also devices that you can buy that emit an ultrasonic noise that gets rid of geese. But geese do grow accustomed to noises quickly; this is especially so if you live in a noisy neighborhood. Noise repellents fall into three general categories:
- Propane cannons
- Recordings of the actual distress calls of Canada geese
Annoying Geese With the Feel of Netting
Most animals, including Canada geese, dislike the feel of netting under their feet. There is a product called "BirdBlock" that takes advantage of this fact. It comes in rolls. You can lay it down on the ground, and the birds will not want to land there. However, this solution applies mainly to cases where Canada geese are drawn to a property because it has water on it. It must be targeted to specific areas; it will not be applicable for all homeowners. It would be impracticable to try to lay netting down across the entire surface of a large lawn.
But if you have a pond on your land, netting is a great solution. Lay the netting down along the bank of your pond to deprive geese of one of their favorite landing places.
What Causes a Goose Infestation?
Geese are drawn to water and to grassy areas. Both represent sources of food for them. You are more likely to have a geese problem if you have a large lawn, a pond, or you put out bread or other food that geese eat.
How to Prevent a Goose Infestation
You are opening yourself up to an infestation of Canada geese if you have a large lawn, especially if it is bordered by a pond.
The geese are drawn to lawns for two different reasons:
- Grass is a food source for them.
- The openness of a large lawn allows them to see any predators sneaking up on them. Such a setting thereby lets them feed in relative peace since they can simply fly away upon spotting a predator.
These facts suggest one obvious way to prevent an infestation of Canada geese: Reduce the size of your lawn. Replace that lawn space with shrub beds; the geese will regard those shrubs as danger areas where predators could be lurking, and this will keep them away. As a bonus, you will have lovely shrubs to admire.
Canada Geese vs. Other Geese
The Canada goose is easily distinguished from all other geese except for the very similar cackling goose (Branta hutchinsii). You can recognize the Canada goose by its long, black neck and head, punctuated by a striking, white chinstrap and white cheeks. Its appearance is otherwise unremarkable: The torso is grayish-brown on top, white on the bottom; the legs and webbed feet are also black. The bill is flat and black. Males and females look alike, except that the head and neck of the male may be a bit larger. The size of the Canada goose is somewhere between that of a mallard duck and a mute swan.
Other geese can present homeowners with the same problems as Canada geese do and can be discouraged from making pests of themselves on your land via the same methods used to get rid of Canada geese.
Is it unsanitary to have a flock of Canada geese around?
Their excrement can harbor parasites, E. coli, and viruses.
Canada geese will not stop at the lawn when dropping their excrement. They will also cover surfaces like walkways, driveways, and sidewalks with it. Not only is this aesthetically and hygienically unacceptable, but it also poses a slipping hazard, due to the slimy nature of the excrement.
Do Canada geese pose any other problems for homeowners?
In addition to their excrement, there are other potential problems with having geese grazing regularly on your lawn:
- Their aggressive behavior when defending their young could be problematic to homeowners who have small children who will be playing on the lawn.
- The grazing habits of the geese can be harmful to your lawn. For optimal lawn health, you should not mow a lawn until it reaches 3 2/3 inches high; when the mowing is completed, the grass should stand 2 1/2 inches tall. Canada geese, however, do not care about the health of your lawn. They will graze the grass down to a level that is not healthy for your lawn.
- Canada geese do not restrict their honking to the daytime, and their nighttime honking is loud enough that it may disturb your sleep every bit as much as the barking dog of a neighbor would.
Mengak, Michael T., and Sheri T. Dorn. “Repellents and Wildlife Damage Control.” Uga.Edu, Jan. 2007, https://extension.uga.edu/publications/detail.html?number=C1021&title=Repellents%20and%20Wildlife%20Damage%20Control.