How to: Safely removing geese from your customer’s landscape

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Updated May 24, 2019
Photo: PixabayPhoto: Pixabay

There are numerous pests that can take refuge in your customer’s landscape, but ones that are a little rarer are Canada geese.

For customers that have some kind of pond or larger commercial water feature, Canada geese could become frequent visitors but what happens when your customers want them out of the picture?

While these geese may be harmless to your customers, they certainly can be irritating when it comes to them wandering into territories where they aren’t wanted, as they are sure to leave behind droppings on neighboring lawns, walkways and gardens, which could potentially spread diseases.

Geese can also prove to be a headache for you as a landscaper who might have to waste time, energy and resources by replanting plants and flowers that stray geese might try to munch on or trample down.

Canada geese, their eggs and their nests are protected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and they may be scared away without a permit as long as the geese, goslings, eggs and nests are not harmed.

Find out more about how to safely and legally remove Canada geese without harming the animals or the surrounding landscape.

Habitat modification

Eliminate food supply

The overall goals for habitat modification boil down to food reduction, reducing preferred nesting and brood-rearing areas and increasing the sense of wariness or insecurity.

Geese are grazers and prefer grass, especially when it’s fertilized Kentucky bluegrass, and they have a tendency to forage in areas with open sight lines and access to water.

One of the first steps to making geese leave a property is to cut off their supply of food. Typically speaking, geese will wander around neighboring areas searching for food, and if they find a place where food options are plentiful, they will stick around long term.

Replacing Kentucky bluegrass with tall fescue, prairie plantings, English ivy, wildflowers, common periwinkle, Japanese pachysandra, or similar groundcovers will discourage the geese from feeding, according to the Maryland Goose Patrol.

If you maintain the landscaping for a commercial property with ponds and other larger water features, encourage clients not to feed these geese. If your customers have their own smaller backyard pond and have still found geese are attracted to it, do the same thing and encourage them not to feed the geese.

Once geese see that their food supply isn’t as easy to get to as it once was, they will avoid that particular part of the landscape and move on to other areas.

Site aversion

Along the same lines as removing food sources, take stock of everything in your customer’s landscape that would prove attractive to geese.

If your customer is a commercial property with a pond, consider putting up fences and nets around the pond to keep geese out, and let the grasses around the areas grow taller for a period of time, as this will make pond conditions undesirable for geese and they will leave to find a more inviting location.

A good rule of thumb is to reduce the total amount of lawn area, as well as the amount of young shoots geese will prefer to snack on within the landscapes.

Consider replacing grass with other types of materials and plantings, leave grassy areas alone to naturalize and either stop or cut back on the use of fertilizer and waterings to reduce the number of young shoots that grow.

“Predators stay away from our simplified landscapes that leave them no cover for hunting,” the Humane Society of the United States says online. “And, lack of predators is one of the things that attract Canada geese to these sites. Reduce sight lines and limit access to open water to increase their wariness and make geese less comfortable at a site.”

According to the Humane Society of the United States, combining the act of curtaining reproduction with strong, effective, well-timed site aversion can be the driving forces behind a successful removal program.

“When adult geese are not tied to flightless goslings after the nesting season, these adults can be harassed away from preferred foraging sites before summer brings large numbers of people to those sites,” the Humane Society of the United States says online. “And clearing open spaces of goose concentrations — with their attendant droppings — prior to the mid-summer molt eliminates the most significant conflicts.”

When their nesting site is modified, it makes the geese feel less secure from predators, which will encourage them to relocate. The Humane Society also recommends performing site aversion before geese get too strongly attached to a nesting area, as the longer they’ve used a site, the more difficult it becomes to get them to leave.

The Humane Society also adds that geese are more willing to leave a site before they have established nesting territories in early spring and again after their goslings are flighted in late summer.

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