Population of Canada Geese on Highland Lake Presents Problems

An environmental threat and nuisance

By Janet Eklund

The resident Canada Geese populations have grown into major nuisances that threaten an environment to the detriment of habitats, golf courses, beaches and parks, water quality, public and private property, crops, and the health and safety of people.  They do not migrate. Geese are federally protected under the Migration Treaty Act of 1918.

The resident Canada geese began taking up residency on Highland Lake about three years ago when people began feeding them.  Areas known for handouts can see a few geese increase 100-fold over time. Some 20 pairs of geese now live and breed on Highland Lake causing their population to significantly multiply each year.  New Hampshire Fish and Game reports 8,600 pairs statewide.

Every year, each pair of Highland Lake geese has raised a clutch of four to six eggs with the same mate in the wetlands and ponds adjacent to the lake during March and April.  In May, each pair leads their goslings across Route 11 to mature through summer and fall by foraging in large flocks in Chaffee Park, the Town Beach, landowners’ lakefront lawns and driveways, Lakeview Cemetery, crop fields, the channel, and near the firehouse. 

A Canada Goose can weigh 17 pounds and has a never-ending appetite for fresh greens. It will consume up to four pounds of grass daily, leaving behind feathers and three pounds of droppings every day.  It is aggressive to pets and humans that come in close contact with nests and maturing young.

At Highland Lake, swimming, sunbathing, summer vacationing, residing, family cookout outings, and the overall enjoyment of recreation and life on the lake have become unpleasant or non-existent. 

The Town of Andover and lakefront landowners have already implemented some scare tactics with varying success.  Site aversion methods yield better results when implemented in conjunction with another method.

The most effective goose management plan requires coordination between municipalities and landowners, diligence, long-term persistence, and professional guidance to be successful in reducing populations. The US Humane Society, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, the USDA Wildlife Services, and New Hampshire Fish and Game all agree on the same site aversion tactics:

Cease feeding immediately. This is the single most important deterrent action.
Noise, scarecrows, and eye balloons
Predator decoys
Fencing and vegetative barriers

The USDA Wildlife Services in Concord loans free to municipalities scaring devices and  the expertise to use them.  New Hampshire Fish and Game reports that the resident Canada goose hunting season in September, when bag limits are doubled, has had significant impacts on population reduction.  With mating season in March, New Hampshire Fish and Game waterfowl biologists are saying now is the time to think about site aversion.