I’m no fan of resident geese. Canada geese are not supposed to stick around all summer. They are supposed to fly north in the spring. I do admit they’re pretty, and I like the honking call, but Northern Canada is where geese need to be in summer.
Canada geese are likely the most recognized waterfowl species in North Carolina. To the average person they all look pretty much the same, but there are several different subspecies. There’s the rub.
Most subspecies are migratory, but the large resident type is not. Populations of this ecotype have been exploding over the last 20 to 30 years. Conversely, numbers of migratory types are less than ten percent of what they were 60 years ago.
In the 1980’s the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, trying to bolster declining goose numbers, raised and released this giant subspecies. Neighboring states did as well. Birds were easy to rear and established well but had weak migratory tendencies.
Geese must learn to migrate from their parents. They also breed in the same locale as where they were reared. Consequently, when parents stay in an area, the goslings do as well.
Resident types also are more successful parents than their migrating cousins. The result is a huge increase in residents and a decline in migrating populations. It’s not that geese forgot how to migrate. They are different types.
Another reason for the imbalance is loss of natural habitat. Changing farming practices also entice many migrating geese to stop their migration and breed further north than they once did.
Some people say a goose is a goose, but these resident geese are bolder than the migrating kind. They are comfortable around people and feed wherever they please. They take their toll on crops and landscaping. They also leave their droppings everywhere. It is unsightly and a health hazard.
What can we do about it? First, don’t feed them. Also if you are a landowner, consider allowing hunting on your property during the September resident goose season. Most hunters are responsible and will respect your property. If they don’t you have their identification, since written permission is necessary to hunt on another’s land in North Carolina.
Don’t worry; the migrant birds won’t be here for another two months. They also are less likely to frequent densely populated areas. These resident birds make great table fare if dressed shortly after being harvested. Cook them as you would domestic duck or goose.
The season is in, so now is the time to scare these squatters out of the residential areas and into adjacent legal hunting places where populations can be thinned. If their numbers increase much more, health of the entire goose population will be jeopardized.
If harvesting is repulsive to you, you can still discourage geese on your property by limiting their access to water. Geese tend to walk and not fly into the water, so erect a wire barrier to make it inconvenient. If you harass them they might go somewhere else.
Ted Manzer teaches agriculture at Northeastern High School.