Send Those Canada Geese Packing! Unwanted Guests

 They eat a lot and cause a mess. They overstay their welcome and can become  aggressive when challenged. No, they’re not your no-account relatives—they’re resident Canada geese.  

 These 12- to 15-pound birds were once migratory animals, but many began to lose  that instinct when they were employed as live decoys by hunters in the early  part of the last century. Live decoys were outlawed by the 1930s, and the  captive geese were turned loose. Well-meaning conservation efforts to  re-introduce the geese into areas they had once abandoned also were a bit more  successful than originally intended. Once freed or reintroduced, many geese  decided that migration was perhaps too much of a hassle, and decided to stick  around—multiplying exponentially ever since.  

 These resident geese can now be found eating loads of cultivated grass,  loitering around co-ops and condos on golf courses, parkland, and other green  areas, leaving their droppings and feathers everywhere. And it’s more than just a landscaping or picnicking nuisance—if a flock is large enough, it can even contaminate water supplies—or bring down a commercial aircraft!  

 Like homeowners weary of guests who, stay too long, condos are looking for ways  to move the geese off their property. But, like with removing guests, condos  face an uphill battle because amenities that geese like include landscaped  ponds (great for swimming and protection from predators) and short, manicured  lawns (great for grazing). Because there is so much for geese to like at condos  and co-ops, it often takes a mix of lethal and non-lethal approaches to move  them off the property, says Kim Gurlavich, a wildlife specialist with the U.S.  Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Wildlife Services Program in New Jersey.  

 “The more angles you approach it at the better off you are, because there’s not one quick fix,” she says. Approaches listed by Gurlavich include making the condo less  hospitable, harassing the geese, limiting their reproduction and, finally,  euthanizing the animals.  

 Evicting the Geese

 The first step in making a condo less hospitable to geese is to stop feeding  them, no matter how “cute” some residents may find them. A condo or co-op rule outlawing feeding geese—along with a sizable fine to those flouting the rule—is a good way to start.  

 In addition to removing easy food sources, an escalating program of harassment  tactics can also be effective in getting rid of geese.  

 Geese don’t like unusual noises or sights, so many HOAs put out shiny or noisy objects  like flags, strips of flashy metal or noisemakers to scare the creatures.  Condos with small ponds have drafted hobbyists who use their radio-controlled  boats to chase the geese around the water. Enough of that, and the pesky avians  usually strike out for calmer environs.  

 Another way to make geese uncomfortable in the water is to run twine or wire  grid lines a few inches above the water’s surface, which makes it difficult for them to take off.  

 On land, trained dogs (typically border collies or Australian shepherds) have  also been employed to harass geese. These dogs can have a rollicking good time  keeping the geese moving and uncomfortable.  

 One such firm that supplies dogs to co-ops and condos struggling with geese is  Geese Police, which sends dogs all over New Jersey from its home base in  Howell.  

 According to Joe Kohl, company sales manager, the 35- to 50-pound hounds  employed in the field have a physique and mannerisms that makes geese edgy. “They stalk, they stare, they have a wolf-like glance called ‘The Eye.’ Their head is down, their tail is down and they stalk the geese.” While the nervous geese may fear for the lives, the dogs aren’t trained to kill. “The geese are never touched,” explains Kohl, but they certainly get tired of being kept constantly on the  run, and soon move camp.  

 Harrier dogs are usually brought to a goose-infested community two to three  times a day, seven days a week, says Kohl. The dogs will stay from 10 minutes  to one hour in a session, depending on the number and tenacity of the geese. It  usually takes six to eight weeks to get the geese to permanently change their  habits and not return to a property, says Kohl.  

 Unfortunately, all of the harassment tactics share a common failing—the geese can adapt or become habituated to them. Geese can become accustomed to  noise, inured to the presence of shiny mylar flags, or simply return next year  after the dogs are gone.  

 Other Approaches

 Another way to drive geese off the property involves the use of repellents, like  FlightControl Plus. This EPA-approved repellent is applied to a condo’s turf. When geese munch on the treated grass, they get an upset stomach. The  repellent also contains a compound that absorbs ultra-violet light, which only  geese can see. When geese later see the repellant-treated grass, they associate  it with sickness and move on, seeking food that doesn’t make them ill. While repellents can work, they can be labor-intensive,  requiring reapplication after every rainfall.  

 Another approach to keeping the goose population down is by disrupting the  animals’ breeding cycle, typically by puncturing their eggs, burying them, or “addling” them—smearing them with corn oil to prevent hatching. These methods are effective,  but time-consuming, as the nest must be located and every egg treated.  

 Further complicating the procedure is that permits are required to addle eggs in  New Jersey. Those seeking permission to addle eggs can apply for a permit  online at https://epermits. fws.gov. According to Gurlavich, thoroughness is  needed for an addling strategy to be effective, “You have to constantly go back when they’re nesting to check—because they’ll lay new eggs once [one clutch of] eggs are addled.”  

 Nuclear Options

 While most residents and boards would prefer non-lethal means of getting  troublesome geese off their properties, it’s fairly safe to say that a dead goose will not be returning to peck and poop  another day. Hunting directly reduces the goose population, though times for  hunting geese legally in New Jersey are limited to three short seasons, and  many developments have houses too close together to permit safe hunting. In  addition, the hunters themselves need a variety of licenses, including a New  Jersey hunting license. For information about goose-hunting in New Jersey,  boards can contact the Bureau of Wildlife in Trenton at 609-292-6685, or online  at www.njfishand wildlife.com.  

 Even more controversial than hunting geese is the practice of “gassing” them—a method that has been used in a few New Jersey communities in recent years.  Gassing is usually done during molting season, when geese can’t fly, and involves herding the animals into enclosures, where they’re “put to sleep” with toxic chemicals, using guidelines approved by the American Veterinarian  Medical Association (AMVA), says Gurlavich.  

 Gassing has been widely condemned by the Humane Society of the United States. “We have issues about the way they’re using this method,” says Maggie Brasted, director of Urban Wildlife Conflict Resolution with the  society. “They are putting these animals in big chambers with lots of animals together,  and the AVMA standards don’t address that part of it. The main issue is these animals don’t need to be killed. You’re really talking about killing animals just because people find them  inconvenient.”  

Fence ‘Em In

 As an alternative to killing geese, Brasted and Gurlavich both recommend  modifying the condo landscape to make it less accommodating to the feathery  fowl.  

 Short, trimmed grass—which many condos maintain with pride—is like “paradise” for geese, says Brasted. “Grass that’s fertilized and watered—that’s the best free buffet a goose can find.” Because geese also associate short grass with safety because it allows them to  spot predators coming at them, Brasted advises HOAs to consider planting taller  plants, or install fencing, especially around ponds.  

 Because geese cannot fly during the molting season from mid-June to  early-August, they need to be around water—which provides a haven from predators for them and their chicks. Geese also like  easy access between water (safety) and grass (food).  

 Installing fences around ponds can convince geese to move elsewhere, says  Brasted. “You want to have a barrier, something physical between the open water and their  food. You want them to work harder. They can fly, but they’d really rather walk. You want to make your site less convenient.”  

 Installing gravel in place of grass, along with other landscaping modifications,  such as berms, that limit lines of sight for geese can also contribute to  making condo grounds less accommodating , says Brasted.  

 Most professionals agree that a combination of harassment with some simple  landscape modification can be enough to get rid of the geese without resorting  to euthanasia.  

 And Canada geese, Brasted says, are actually misunderstood. “They’re wonderful animals who are just trying to make a living raising their families  in a habitat that we created that’s perfect for them,” she says. “We can take simple steps to change that habitat to make it less appealing. There  are humane ways to deal with it. There’s no need to kill the geese at all.”  

 Jim Douglass is the managing editor of New England Condominium, a Yale Robbins’ publication.

 

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