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March 26, 2012

Keep Geese Away by Changing the Habitat

Habitat modification creates long-lasting results

Adapted from the book Wild Neighbors

  • Geese usually avoid water bodies surrounded by dense and tall vegetation because they fear that predators may be hiding there. Jen Mabee/The HSUS

  • Canada geese tend to congregate in parks and on golf courses where mowed grass provides them with a free all-you-can-eat buffet. John Hadidian/The HSUS

The most lasting way to avoid Canada geese problems (and often the most cost-effective in the long run) is to change the habitat so it doesn't appeal to them. You can do this by taking away their preferred foods and creating a landscape where the birds don't feel safe.

Habitat changes will work better if geese can go to a "tolerance zone" that meets their needs. Leave geese tolerance zones and the geese in them alone. Then geese will vacate zero-tolerance zones more readily.

The buffet is closed

Like most of us, if Canada geese find their favorite food spread out in easy reach, they will eat it. But you can close the free buffet!

  • 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 6 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.

Don't give them shelter

      Geese feel safe from predators where there are open sight lines, so they can see predators coming, and where they can easily escape onto open water.

      • 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.

      Resources

      » Guide to Canada Geese shows step-by-step how to humanely deal with "nuisance" geese.
      » Living with Wild Neighbors in Urban and Suburban Communities: A Guide for Local Leaders gives elected officials and other decision-makers the tools to implement long-lasting, nonlethal solutions to community wildlife conflicts.
      » Schedule a Canada Goose Egg Addling Training workshop in your community.
      » Humane Wildlife Services works to resolve homeowners' conflicts with wild neighbors.
      » Our Wild Neighbors book offers a detailed look at urban wildlife species and how to peacefully coexist with them.

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