Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.

Welcome to the Kentucky Native Plant and Wildlife Blog.
The purpose of this blog is to provide information on using native plants in the landscape, issues related to invasive exotic plants, urban wildlife management, and wildlife damage management. It is my intention that this information will assist you in deciphering the multitude of information circulating around the web and condense in some meaningful method as it relates to Kentucky. In addition, I hope to highlight a native plant that can be used in the landscape.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Canada Geese Versus the Humans: Who Will Win?

One of my fondest memories growing up in South Dakota was the semi-annual migration of snow geese and listening to the sounds of "goose music" for a month or so.  March was typically the spring migration period and I find myself thinking of those times when a few Canada geese fly by the house in the morning.  There is nothing like watching several thousand geese explode into the air and listening to the chattering of all those geese.  While snow geese were the most common species found in the Great Plains back then, the Canada goose (not Canadian - they don't own them) was quite uncommon and to the hunting community viewed this species as the "trophy" bird worth pursuing.  By this time, a small remnant population of the Giant subspecies (Branta canadensis maxima) had been developed from breeding stock at a game farm in Owatonna, MN and restoration efforts began in a variety of states, including South Dakota. The captive propagation program began to restore this, the largest of all the 7 subspecies of Canada goose, to South Dakota and this is one of those great American Conservation Success stories in that we probably have more of this subspecies of Canada goose now than at any time in our history. And so when I worked for the South Dakota Game Fish and Parks Department, one summer I had the great opportunity to capture and work on this project for a weekend.  During the summer the birds molt (lose their flight feathers) and the young are flightless and during this time we would conduct a goose rodeo whereby the birds were driven by boat onto the shore into waiting nets where we would age, sex, and band them and then release them unharmed. It was great fun.  So what does that have to do with Canada geese in Kentucky?  Not much I guess except the part of there being 7 subspecies, with C. canadensis maxima being the largest and only truly native to the upper Great Plains and other mid-western States.  For you see, the restoration programs in that part of the world were  SOOOOO successful that state agencies had birds to spare and hence the trading began and these birds were shipped to many different states to begin their own restoration programs or to introduce the birds into new environments. Kentucky, like many other states, was a new environment and the geese have done exceptionally well, in fact, some would say, too good as there are now so many "resident" Giant Canada geese that they often come into conflict with humans.  For you see, the newcomers like many alien species that are introduced into new habitats, found they like habitats made by humans, parks, golf courses, schools, and other areas where there is thick, luscious food (green grass that has been fertilized) and water (for roosting, loafing, resting, etc.) and there really weren't any predators and so life was and is good for the goose.  So what's the rub?  For those who have been bitten (and yes I have been and it really doesn't feel nice especially when you have a bird pinned between your legs and his/her head slips out and they wake up and try to escape,  biting the closest piece of human flesh they can find and leaving a nice welt), or for those who have to clean up their "droppings", or those who have been chased while approaching a nest or female with young, the birds can be quite a nuisance.  Until recently the options for managing urban nuisance geese was troublesome, but today it is much more manageable and the reason this article arrives in mid-March is that goose nesting season is rapidly approaching and now is the time to consider your management options.  There are a number of options for reducing human-goose conflicts that range from putting up bright colored heavy monofilament fishing line in a square pattern over the pond, to placing shrubs and trees around ponds to deter landing or taking off, to not heavily fertilizing and mowing turf, to using a repellant (with the active ingredient methyl anthranilate a natural byproduct of grape extract), to getting a well-trained border collie dog, to the final option, getting a depredation permit to oil, shake, or puncture eggs and/or replace the eggs with dummy eggs.  This permit is available free and can be obtained by going to the following web site:

The publication contains information on how to obtain the permit, what records must be kept, and other frequently asked questions.  You can only destroy the eggs from March 1 through June 30.  Why does destroying eggs work?  Because the birds will continue to site on un-hatched eggs and will not attempt to renest, which they would do if the nest or eggs were destroyed (like by a predator).  While all forms of egg destruction work, I usually recommend oiling because it is quicker (nothing worse than an upset momma goose protecting the nest) and easier to accomplish compared to the other methods.  This is usually a two person job, one to keep momma away and another to oil the eggs.  Once the dirty deed has been done, do not remove the eggs or when you go back to check on them, do not disturb them as they may contain gases and the eggs will "explode" and you do not want to smell like rotten eggs because well, I probably don't need to explain that one.  More information on managing urban Canada goose problems can be obtained by consulting the following publications:

So who will win, I am not sure but I would not bet against the geese.

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