Managing Canada Geese

The following question was sent to the P&PDL diagnosticians here at Purdue University:

Question: Could you PLEASE give me some advice on keeping Canada Geese out of my 2 acre pond. We sometimes have up to 100 geese at a time. Thank you!

Answer: During the mid-part of this century, Canada geese populations had declined to relatively low numbers. Thanks to the conservation efforts of hunters, conservation organizations, State, and Federal wildlife agencies, Canada geese have once again become abundant in the U.S. In certain situations, the geese have become too abundant in some locations. Although most people enjoy the sight and sound of wild geese migrating through their area, many people do not appreciate the turf damage and accumulations of droppings that large numbers of resident birds can leave behind. Once geese have become established on your pond, it may be difficult to get any long-term relief. A good management program tends to be a maintenance type activity rather than a quick fix.

1. The first step of a goose management program is to identify all of the goose attractions in the immediate area and to eliminate or limit those attractions.

  • Your pond. Water is an attraction in itself. Limiting goose access to the pond through the installation of overhead grid wires has proven effective in many areas. If your pond has an aerator, turn it off in the winter and allow your pond to freeze. Open water is extremely attractive in the winter when many ponds are frozen over.
  • Vegetation. Geese are grazers. They love the tender new growth on well manicured grass. You can replant heavily goose-grazed areas with ground covers, native grasses, or a variety of landscaping choices other than turf grass.
  • Other food attractions. If you have been feeding the geese, this must stop if you want the geese to leave. If you plant crops attractive to geese (corn, soybeans, etc.) adjacent to your pond, you can try switching to another crop type, or plant several rows of a less attractive crop as a perimeter barrier.
  • Nesting structures. If you have installed goose nest platforms in the past, remove those platforms. You may also remove any old goose nests. You do not need a permit or license in Indiana to remove any old, abandoned goose nests. You would need a permit to tamper with an active nest with eggs or young in it.
2. Since geese prefer areas where they have easy access between food, water, and nesting sites, barriers can be an effective deterrent in discouraging resident geese.

  • Fencing. Either temporary plastic fencing or more permanent fencing installed around the perimeter of your pond can be effective in containing geese.
  • Vegetation barriers. Dense shrubbery can also act as a fence. Ensure that the shrubs are thick and dense at ground level as well as at the top.
  • Visual barriers. Temporary fences made of 1 or 2 strands of string tied with streamers have occasionally provided temporary relief from migratory geese. We rarely get satisfactory results with this method on resident geese.
3. Harassment. Noise harassment has proven to be effective in moving geese out of an area when implemented correctly. Visual harassment has been less successful.
  • Successful harassment is based on punishment/reward. The geese are harassed (punished) when they attempt to land on the pond, but harassment stops (reward) when the geese fly away. This means you need to monitor your geese to find out the time of day they arrive at your pond. Your goal is to NEVER LET THEM LAND ON THE POND. If the geese permanently reside on your pond and do not leave, you must harass them into flight and then prevent them from landing again. You can best control this type of harassment by using hand-held pyrotechnic equipment.
  • Automatic harassment systems such as propane cannons can be effective if the system is moved and the automatic timer interval changed regularly. Birds acclimate quickly to repetitive stimuli, so changing the location and the interval between booms extends the effectiveness of this tool. These systems work better in agricultural rather than urban situations.
  • Visual harassment. Plastic owls, snakes, etc. have been completely ineffective in harassing geese. Metallic balloons tethered in the area have produced limited results.

​3. Repellents. Chemical repellents for geese are based on TASTE aversion. Methyl anthranilate is a registered chemical that has shown some effectiveness in preventing geese from grazing on turf grass. It does not prevent geese from walking through an area or from defecating in an area. This product has also demonstrated some repellency in small puddles of water, but not on larger ponds or lakes.

The most successful goose management programs incorporate multiple methods. The combined effects of two or more of the techniques listed above will provide a much more satisfactory result than relying on one method alone.

Canada geese are protected by both State and Federal law. This means you must have a valid permit prior to conducting any restricted activities. For additional information on alternatives for Canada goose control, contact the USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services Office in your state or call the Indiana USDA- APHIS-WS office at 765-494-6229.

-Judy S. Loven, State Director, Indiana Wildlife Services