Picture it: you wake up early one fine weekend morning and put on your sneakers, looking forward to a bracing run around your HOA's picturesque grounds. Maybe you'll jog around the pond—the turf is nice and flat, and the well-manicured grounds provide a lovely backdrop for your workout. You head out the door, and make your way down the path to the pond. And that's when you see them. Dozens—no, scores—of them. Hunkered down on the path and in the grass like small boulders, blocking your route and giving you the side-eye as you get closer. They're Canada geese—big, territorial, and not at all happy to be disturbed.
And it's not just the birds themselves between you and the pond. Their droppings are literally everywhere you step, befouling your running shoes and turning the whole path into a minefield. As you try to scrape off your shoe, one of the larger birds rises, spreads its enormous wings, and begins to hiss and honk, agitating the others and making you reconsider your workout plans. Maybe today isn't the day to enjoy the pond, or the path, or any of the grounds your association dues pay to maintain.
Canada Geese, Eh?
While city residents must contend with pigeons, and those living on the waterfront have to deal with seagulls, residents of more suburban HOAs often find themselves at odds with geese. Once migratory, these 12- to 15-pound birds have lost much of their rambling instinct over the decades, thanks to well-meaning reintroduction efforts and the proliferation of attractive nesting and congregation spots.
As it happens, many of those ideal spots are man-made. “Geese bother people a lot in condos," says Rebecca Fyffe, a wildlife educator with the Wildlife Control Policy Institute, a national organization based in Chicago. "If a goose could make us do what it wanted us to do in terms of landscaping for its pleasure, it would look like exactly what we do at condo developments. The grass would be cut short, there would be a pond, and there would be no tall plants around the pond. We’re landscaping to attract geese."
And playing host to a few hundred large birds can be more than just a nuisance, say the pros. Resident geese can eat cultivated grass down to a nub, costing thousands in reseeding and sodding fees; they loiter on golf courses, and other green areas, leaving their droppings and feathers everywhere and discouraging residents from using the spaces they're paying for. Birds carry mites, and their droppings are hotbeds of bacteria and parasites that can cause illness in both humans and pets alike. If a flock is large enough, it can even contaminate water supplies. And while it's a blessedly rare occurrence, geese have been known to bring down commercial aircraft by getting sucked into plane engines.