The information in this article was taken from the New Hampshire Lakes Association’s NHLakes.org/wp-content/uploads/11-Lake-Friendly-Actions-Along-the-Shoreline-Don_t-Invite-Canada-Geese-NH-LAKES.pdf.
One of the great sounds of fall is the sound of the Canada Geese honking as they head south for the winter. However, people who live on the shores of our lakes recognize that the geese cause problems.
Problems caused by geese include: overgrazing of grass and ornamental plants;
accumulation of droppings and feathers; attacks on humans by aggressive birds; and the fouling of water bodies, swimming areas, docks, lawns, and recreational areas. Flocks of geese and other waterfowl also feed on a variety of crops. With warmer and shorter winters, geese are staying longer and migrating shorter distances.
These birds require fresh water for resting and nesting, and tender young grass and other succulent vegetation for food. The expansive manicured lawns of residential neighborhoods, business areas, and parks provide excellent habitat.
Geese can easily become accustomed to people and residential areas. Additionally, the feeding of waterfowl by humans contributes to conflicts with humans. Probably without even realizing it, most of us, particularly those of us who live along the water, are putting out a “Welcome” mat to these majestic birds.
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 protects all native waterfowl in the United States, including migratory and resident Canada geese. Under this law, it is illegal to hunt, kill, sell, purchase, or possess migratory birds except as permitted by regulations enforced by the US Department of Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service.
The USDA Wildlife Services Program recommends using an integrated approach to managing waterfowl. Long-term waterfowl management results require multiple tools, each effective for different concerns.
• Discontinue feeding. Wild birds can find their own food.
• Modify landscaping. Allow grass to grow longer. Along water edges, leave native vegetation, or replant areas with less attractive vegetation such as pachysandra and periwinkle.
• Install barriers along the shoreline. Barriers such as fences and hedgerows have been known to work.
• Use scaring devices and move them around the property periodically. Try large helium-filled balloons, strobe lights, scarecrows with moveable parts, and Mylar flags.
• Utilize dogs. Most effective are free-ranging dogs trained to chase birds as soon as they land.
• Hunting may help. For information on the Canada Geese hunting season in New Hampshire, visit wildlife.state.nh.us/hunting/waterfowl-season.html.
• Prevent nesting by manipulating the nests. Since waterfowl are protected by law, a property owner must first register with the US Fish and Wildlife Service at epermits.fws.gov/eRCGR/geSI.aspx.
Remove the welcome mat! The New Hampshire Lakes Association recommends that all property owners along the edges of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams make their property unattractive to geese by simply not having a lawn that extends to the shoreline.
The best and easiest thing to do is to plant a vegetated buffer at least three feet high comprised of native shrubs and bushes along your entire shoreline. Not only will you discourage the geese from visiting, you will make your property more attractive while reducing the amount of polluted water that runs off of your property and into the lake. Start planning now for “inviting” fewer geese to your property next spring.
Please see NHLakes.org for many publications about landscaping and planting at the water’s edge. See especially NHLakes.org/along-the-shoreline-and-in-the-water and NHLakes.org/wp-content/uploads/Landscaping-at-the-Waters-Edge.pdf.