Integrated Duck & Goose Management
1. Population Management
The most successful integrated programs include population management or reproductive control complemented by harassment techniques and landscape alterations.
When used as the sole tactic, harassment or exclusion techniques merely encourage geese to move someplace else. As goose populations increase, they eventually create a larger “demand” for habitat. This demand causes geese to become increasingly resistant to hazing techniques.
OvoControl is a specially formulated product to interfere with egg hatchability. The active ingredient, nicarbazin, was originally used as a drug to control an enteric disease in chickens and now developed for hatch control in domestic geese and ducks.
OvoControl is ideally suited for large sites and/or where nests may be difficult to locate or access. The technology can be readily scaled-up to a community-wide program and does not require an army of volunteers or staff to be effective. One person can effectively treat an entire community or area.
OvoControl fed as a palatable bait during the reproductive season, prevents eggs from hatching. Registered by the EPA, the product is non-lethal and supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), PETA and mainstream animal welfare and conservation groups.
b) Egg Destruction – Oiling & Addling
Ideal for small sites where nests can be readily located, the eggs are rendered infertile by puncturing a small hole in each of them, shaking them or lightly covering them in oil. The eggs will not hatch, but the geese will continue to incubate them. This is important because removing the eggs may prompt geese to lay another clutch. When the eggs are fertile, timing is critical to avoid gosling development and the destruction of viable fetuses. For detailed instructions see the U.S. Humane Society protocol.
Problematic goose and duck populations in urban or suburban environments are typically not candidates for hunting. The reason the birds are classified as a “nuisance” is that they reside in habitat in close proximity to people. Due to potential danger in urban and suburban areas, hunting is most often not an option for domestic goose or duck management.
Birds can become habituated to all methods of harassment. The key is a varied program, incorporating different elements and changing them often to avoid habituation. The simplest method involves frightening or hazing. For example, repeated and vigorously chasing birds from a property while armed with a broom or water hose will sometimes cause the geese to relocate. Hazing is most effective when the birds first arrive.
Noisemaking devices (cracker shells, propane cannons, whistles, etc.) or visual deterrents (Mylar tape, etc.) can help deter birds from an area when used in conjunction with the habitat modification techniques listed below (see Landscaping & Exclusion). If used in isolation, waterfowl will often become habituated to the hazing techniques. Mylar tape, one effective visual deterrent, has both movement and is metallic in appearance. Many noisemaking devices require a permit or license, especially within city limits. Some of these devices are even classified as firearms.
One of the most effective harassment methods, Border collies and similar breeds of dogs can be very useful in chasing waterfowl. This is a socially acceptable method to many, but means a substantial investment in time and money. These dogs require extensive training and must be kept active. The use of dogs has failed in the past when improperly trained dogs were used or a single dog was used in too small an area. Sharing a dog among businesses can minimize the cost of training and boarding a dog. This also keeps the dog chasing geese more frequently. Check local regulations to determine if leash laws are in place. Consider using a life vest or other marking to indicate that you are using “working dogs”.
c) Effigies, Boats and Lasers
Some locations have had success with the use of effigies (stuffed coyotes), gas powered boats (for chasing birds in water) and hand held lasers.
3. No-Feeding Rules
Ducks and geese will readily accept handouts and quickly become habituated to people and “free food”. Unfortunately, this practice assures that the birds will stay in places where they are least tolerated. Working with the neighbors and the community, implement no-feeding rules and regulations. Many problems begin with people innocently feeding a few birds. Feeding concentrates birds in areas and may also reduce the effectiveness of other measures you take to minimize goose damage.
Two repellents, Flight Control® (www.flightcontrol.com) and ReJex-iT Migrate® (www.rejexit.com) are registered for geese on turf. The active ingredient in ReJex-iT, methyl anthranilate, is a food grade ingredient and not toxic to humans, dogs, cats, or birds and benign to the environment. The active ingredient in Flight Control is anthraquinone. Foggers are available for ponds and both products are intended for use by certified applicators.
Be sure to read and follow the label of any repellent product you use. The chemicals noted above are not highly toxic to aquatic life but should only be applied in accordance with label directions to keep environmental effects minimal. Remember, repellents are designed to deter geese from feeding on turf, not to physically exclude them from an area.
5. Landscaping & Exclusion
Geese and ducks prefer to walk from land into water. Establishing any type of a barrier that prevents geese from doing so will make the area less attractive to the birds. Install shrubs, hedges or other taller plants around or in the water. Choose plants that exceed 30 inches in height and establish them in areas at least 20 to 30 feet wide. These plants physically impede the geese from moving to and from the water, minimize the availability of new grass shoots to the geese and block their line of sight, making it more difficult for geese to see potential predators approaching.
An unmowed shoreline buffer of native grasses and wild flowers that grow 20-30 inches tall in a strip 20-30 feet wide along the shoreline can discourage goose visits. Native grasses generally remain standing even after winter snows have compacted most other grasses.
a) Lawns and Mowing
Geese prefer fertilized grass to unfertilized grass. Reduce fertilizer use where possible. Simultaneously, reduce lawn size in areas where practical. This minimizes foraging sites for geese. Some ground covers and grasses are less preferred than other plants (for example, turf). However, be aware that geese will readily eat less palatable plants if there are no other alternatives available.
Geese have more difficulty locating new shoots in tall grass (more than 6 inches). Allowing the grass or other vegetation to grow tall around water bodies may also act as a vegetative barrier to geese or block their line of sight, which is their primary protection against predators. Increase mowing height or do not mow turf.
Fences can prevent geese from walking into an area. Fences should be at least 30 inches tall and have openings no larger than 3 inches in diameter. Woven wire, chicken wire, picket fencing, plastic snow fencing and construction fencing are examples of effective materials. The effectiveness of fence barriers may be enhanced when used in conjunction with landscaping modifications (vegetative barriers, reducing lawn size, etc.). Landscaping adjacent to fences will also make it more aesthetically pleasing. Before you build any fence, check local ordinances and subdivision covenants.
Another alternative is to place “fencing” on top of the water body with an overhead grid wire system (6-ft. spacing). Contact your local wildlife control supplier for options and details. A further option is electric fencing to help reduce goose grazing. It is most useful on small properties or during the molt, when geese are flightless.
Large boulders (more than 2 feet in diameter) placed along the shoreline may discourage goose use and access to grazing sites by making it difficult for geese to walk in and out of the water. The vertical drop of the barrier should exceed 2 feet. Effectiveness is improved when used in conjunction with vegetative barriers.