Last week, we posted a blog about the impacts that Canada geese can have on beaches. This is part 2, which explores solutions.
Our Blue Flag program recently held, thanks to funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, a Goose Management Workshop for beach managers. Canada geese love to hang out, and also poop, on beaches, which increases the amount of bacteria in the water. This can make it difficult for a municipality to apply for the Blue Flag award, which requires beaches to have excellent water quality.
For the workshop, we brought in experts from the City of Toronto, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, and the Wildlife Management Group to discuss the biology, history and best management techniques for Canada geese. Here are some of the techniques we learned about:
Egg oiling is an effective and harmless way to manage breeding Canada geese. Nest searching begins in April in order to locate and identify nests in advance. Once geese have laid a clutch, the eggs are coated with biodegradable oil, which prevents the eggs from hatching. Because the mother doesn’t know the eggs are sterile, she stays on the nest until realizing, much too late, that they are not going to hatch. The Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA) has been undertaking egg oiling since 1998, and a total of 3,265 nests have been treated within the GTA.
Once Canada geese have finished nesting, they flock to safe areas with plenty of food in order to molt their flight feathers. And what better place than a beach, with unobstructed access to and from the water and lots of turf grass to munch on! Geese are unable to fly while they are molting, so it is the ideal time to re-locate them. TRCA has been relocating Canada geese since 2007, and so far a total of 13,966 geese have been relocated to rural areas with suitable habitat.
Dogs have a natural instinct to chase geese, and can be trained to herd them without harming them. The City of Toronto purchased its first border collies in 1997, and now they are used along 160 km of waterfront. The dogs have been effective at making waterfront areas less desirable to geese.
There are various ways to scare geese from a property. These include noisemakers, strobe lights and recorded distress calls. It is important to vary the sequence continuously or the birds will adapt to the disturbance.
The only natural predators of Canada geese are coyotes. Realistic looking coyote decoys can be purchased and they should be moved around periodically so that the geese don’t get accustomed to them. While decoys can be a helpful aid, they are best used in conjunction with other techniques.
Geese need a clear line of sight from the water so that they can spot predators, so creating a more natural shoreline can go a long way toward keeping geese away. Let the grass adjacent to the water grow a little longer or plant a buffer of tall grasses, shrubs, trees and wildflowers. With areas for predators to hide, geese will find the area unsuitable.
One of the reasons geese flock to popular waterfront parks: people love to feed them. Many well-meaning people don’t realize that bread and other human food is like junk food for birds; in fact, it makes birds feel full and leaves them malnourished. Feeding also causes geese to lose their fear of humans and become more aggressive.
That’s why public education is so important. Educational signage can be installed in popular feeding spots, but there’s no substitute for face-to-face communication. In Toronto, dedicated staff interact daily with park users, providing educational information on how feeding waterfowl is detrimental to the birds and our environment.
There is no cookie-cutter approach to dealing with Canada Geese. In fact, a multi-faceted approach is often the most effective. If your local beach is inundated with Canada Geese, contact us – we can help put you in touch with a wildlife management expert who can create a goose management plan. And always make sure the necessary permits are acquired from the Canadian Wildlife Service well in advance. Hopefully we can help more beaches achieve the Blue Flag award!