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March 26, 2012

The Problem with Canada Goose Roundups

They're inhumane, ineffective, and unnecessary

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Trappers set up a temporary pen on a condo community’s lawn. The flightless Canada geese crowd the pen panels trying to avoid a trapper. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • A goose struggles against the trapper’s grasp as she is carried out of the pen. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • She’s handed off to another trapper who carries her (in his right hand) and a larger goose from the pen. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

  • She is powerless as she is carried to the gas chamber in the back of a van. Kathy Milani/The HSUS

In some communities, Canada geese are rounded up and killed because people find them to be a nuisance, particularly when goose droppings accumulate.

This is wrong. It is not ethical to kill wild birds merely because their mess bothers us or we find them a nuisance, and it’s not necessary to kill geese to resolve conflicts. 

Most roundups occur during the birds’ annual molt when they are growing new flight feathers and can’t fly—from mid-June through July. Canada geese congregate where they find food and safety from predators to molt. 

Once they gather together and can’t fly away, they are readily caught. Young birds will not have developed the ability to fly yet and are easily gathered in roundups as well. Trappers set up portable pens and simply herd geese inside. Then geese are picked up one or two at a time and carried to a gas chamber or a crate. 

What happens to geese who are rounded up?

Many are packed in crates and trucked to slaughterhouses to be killed and processed. Since meat from federally protected birds cannot be sold, it is instead offered to food banks to create the impression that the killing, unnecessary in the first place, was a charitable act. But it is droppings on the grass, not feeding the hungry, that motivates roundups. 

If not slaughtered, geese are killed by lethal gas—often in small chambers on the back of trucks brought directly to the roundup site. Geese are loaded into the chamber one at a time until several are inside. Witnesses can hear the geese banging and thumping trying to escape. When the chamber is full, the geese are gassed and dumped in trash bags to make room for more birds.

Sometimes goslings are spared and shipped to other locations where they are released and left to fend for themselves. 

Do roundups solve the problem?

No. They may provide a temporary fix, but in the long run roundups just free up prime real estate for more geese to move in to. The best way to solve conflicts with Canada geese is with a multi-pronged plan that humanely reduces the goose population and changes the habitat so it is less attractive to geese.  

Since these are federally protected birds, is this legal?

Federal law protects Canada geese, and nearly all bird species in the U.S. However, that only means people cannot harm birds without U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) permission. USFWS frequently gives permission to kill Canada geese in urban and suburban areas. 

In some cases, USFWS gives individual permits to kill geese on one property. On and near airports, USFWS regulation gives broad permission so individual permits aren’t required. Permits do not authorize intentional cruelty, either when birds are being rounded up or at any other time. If you witness cruelty, please document and report it.  

Who is responsible for roundups?

Property owners can decide to have geese killed. USFWS only gives permits to property owners who ask for them. 

For public property such as parks, managers may initiate the decision but local elected officials are ultimately responsible. Where homeowners associations (HOA) manage common areas, HOA-elected boards have the final say. 

Commercial pest control firms and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services carry out many of the roundups and killing. Property owners pay for this. Local and state government employees also round up some geese on public property. 

Taxpayers pay for roundups on public property and HOA members pay for those on HOA property. Taxpayers and HOA members have a right to demand their money be spent ethically and not spent to kill geese. 

Is consensus required in communities considering roundups?

No. Managers contact professionals who may advise killing nuisance animals. These professionals often offer roundup services for a fee as well as advice. 

Typically, controversy and anger erupt. People disgusted by droppings want them to go away. People who care about animals jump in to defend local flocks. Battle lines are drawn and positions hardened, wasting energy that could be used to find a solution acceptable to all. 

Aren't there humane alternatives to rounding up and killing wild geese?

Yes! Tell elected decision-makers in your community that lethal roundups are ineffective and unacceptable, and that there are better ways to control the goose population. Learn more in What to Do About Canada Geese.

Resources

» The HSUS's Guide to Canada Geese: Living with Our Wild Neighbors in Urban and Suburban Communities
» GeesePeace: Helping community leaders devise and implement humane, effective and low cost solutions to wildlife conflicts
» Purchase a copy of Wild Neighbors, the go-to guide for useful, humane solutions to conflicts with wildlife. 
» If you live within the D.C. Metro Area, take advantage of our wildlife conflict resolution service.

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