Goose Facts

What are Canada Geese doing in Missouri?

The name “Canada geese” is misleading. The subspecies of Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima) that live in Missouri year-round are resident geese, descendants of geese living in the Midwest for centuries! They nested on the bluffs and lived in the riversʼ wetlands, and even Lewis and Clark recorded their presence along the Missouri River. During winter months their northern smaller relatives migrate to Missouri, seeking open water and food and return north in the spring.

Why are Canada Geese attracted to our communities?

As the geeseʼs natural wetland habitat has been reduced and suburbs have expanded, geese have moved to the suburbs' ideal living conditions. Geese seek:

• Food source: Mowed grass creates a goose buffet!

• Body of water: Man-made lakes are most inviting, providing safety and a place to raise offspring.

• Sense of safety: Geese prefer large open areas with a 360-degree view of potential predators.  Many lakes have no tall vegetation surrounding them and provide geese a clear line of sight to safety in the lake.

Problems and Solutions

Why are Canada Geese protected?

Canada geese are just one of the species we hunted to near-extinction, yet stopped short of completely wiping out. By 1960, they were truly endangered and repopulation efforts began. They are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which means they cannot be hunted outside of designated seasons and without the permission of state wildlife agencies. (In our state that is the MO Department of Conservation.) While the national program to save the Canada goose from extinction may have been prompted in part by a sincere desire to save a dying species, the real impetus was to provide a flourishing population of game birds for hunters.  

 

What are problems geese usually cause? 

As with most (if not all) human-animal conflicts, the cause of any problems associated with urban geese populations falls squarely in our laps. Their numbers increased due to our own repopulation program, and our ill-conceived green space design. (Detailed below.) We invited Canada geese into our parks, golf courses, office commons, and condominium grounds by offering the ideal living environment, and by feeding them. People used to love to sit and watch the geese with their little goslings...until we tired of their natural behaviors.

 

1) Geese defecate (as do all animals, including humans), and people don't like having to watch their step.

2) Geese defend their homes and their young (as do all animals, including humans), and people resent being approached by an angry gander.

3) Geese occasionally strike aircraft while flying and have become the scapegoat for this danger. The trouble with blaming Canada geese for these strikes is that evidence has shown they are not the only "culprits." Gulls, turkey vultures, eagles, starlings, owls, pigeons, crows, and a dozen other bird species have been proven to have collided with planes mid-air. Is the answer to exterminate all of these birds?   

 

How can we curb the population to decrease the problems?

There are two ways to curb goose populations in unwanted areas. First and foremost is designing green spaces with wildlife in mind. If your goal is to prevent the nesting and egg-laying of Canada geese, the last thing you want to do is clear out all the native growth from the area and put a pond smack-dab in the middle. This is like Disneyland to a goose. Waterfowl are prey animals and need to be able to see when a predator is approaching; therefore, a body of water with an unobstructed view of the surroundings is ideal for their purposes. Designers should take advantage of native grasses, shrubs, and other plants to produce a variety of levels and dimensions. This would not only discourage geese, it would also result in a more appealing landscape for humans.

 

The second, more hands-on, way of population control is egg replacement or oiling. These methods involve preventing already laid eggs from hatching, and the choice between replacing and oiling is individual preference. If replacing the eggs, care must be taken to use stand-ins that closely resemble the real thing in both size and weight. (Geese can tell the difference.) GeesePeace St. Louis is lucky to have a craftswoman whose wooden replicas are second to none. 

 

Do the ways of discouraging nesting and gathering work? If so, do they do more harm than good?

Discouraging future nesting and the above-mentioned egg replacement/oiling are the only methods that do actually work. When we encounter a problem with wildlife, too often our knee-jerk reaction is to kill the offending animals. Not only is this quick-fix unethical, it is a shortsighted solution, as well. Rounding up for slaughter, trapping, poisoning, shooting, and other lethal wildlife control practices only rid an area of that one flock or group of animals. Without addressing what conditions attracted the animals to that location in the first place, there is no reason to believe another population will not move in once the present residents are gone. And, this is, in fact, what occurs. It makes far more sense to critically look at what can be done to prevent habitation. This is where the use of dogs and the overall design of the environment come into play.

What happens when?

The Seasons of the Canada Goose

September to January

Canada geese congregate in flocks and fly from lake to lake to feed. During cold winter months, the Missouri goose population triples with the arrival of migratory groups from the north.

 

February

Migratory flocks begin flying north. Resident geese begin nesting behavior. Male and female breeding pairs separate from the flock. Juvenile geese (one- and two-year-olds) remain in small groups and donʼt breed. 

 

Property owners should register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in preparation for spring nesting on their property. You can use the link at geesepeace.com.

 

March, April, to Early May

Nesting begins! A pair of geese will prepare a nest for six to seven eggs. The mother incubates the eggs and the father stands guard.

 

Property owners locate nests, test eggs for their stage of development, and follow GeesePeace protocol. If goslings – baby geese – have not formed, the eggs may be coated with corn oil to prevent development or replaced with wooden eggs. After three weeks, remove the oiled or wooden eggs and the goose’s reproductive cycle is over for the year.

 

Property owners should register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in preparation for spring nesting on their property. You can use the link at geesepeace.com.

  

Mid-June to Mid-August

Having followed the GeesePeace program, Canada geese will have moved to more remote areas leaving urban sites conflict free of Canada goose problems.

  

Late August and Fall

The molt is over and geese are flying again and it is possible they may revisit your property.

 

Property owners may wish to resume periodic border collie patrols.

  

Mid-May to Early June

When nesting is over, geese search for a safe place for the summer molt, a location with plentiful food and a lake. The molt is a several week period when adult geese become flightless. Old feathers are dropped as new ones grow in.

 

Property owners bring in the team of trained border collies for a few weeks to patrol the lake. The border collies are perceived as predators and pursue the geese on land into the water. Geese do not want to become stranded where there are predators and so will leave the area.

GeesePeace St. Louis

PO Box 6246

Chesterfield, MO 63006-6246

314-567-2081

Do you have questions about Canada geese habits?  click here

Do you want to know who to call for help?  click here

Do you want to know why Canada geese "cause problems"?  click here