Mississippi's Resident Canada Geese: A Blessing and a Curse?
The mid-morning silence was broken by several shotgun blasts and the subsequent large splashes from 5 Canada geese hitting the water, belly-up. The pair of successful hunters exchanged grins and congratulations as they waded to retrieve their birds from the first round of success on this early September hunt. By the time the hunters got their downed geese picked up, and got situated in their layout blinds, the next group of geese was rapidly approaching the decoys.
Resident Canada geese certainly provide many Mississippi waterfowl hunters with enjoyable recreational opportunities and many people enjoy viewing geese throughout the year. However, geese are often viewed as a nuisance by many Mississippians. This article should help landowners who do not wish to have Canada geese on their property prevent a problem before it arises or help to solve a current problem.
Most Canada geese in Mississippi are residents and thus remain in the state year-round. These large birds typically weigh between 7 and 14 pounds and can eat up to 4 pounds of grass in a day! Goose pairs mate for life, but if they lose a mate, they will find a new one. Canada geese typically reproduce for the first time when they are 3 years old and will lay an average clutch of 5 eggs. Goslings typically begin hatching in April, with some nests hatching into May. Geese molt (i.e. replace) all their wing feathers during late June and early July, and are unable to fly for about 4 weeks. Prior to this wing molt, geese move to an open area with ample food and water. These large congregations of molting geese typically cause landowners the most grief and property damage.
To alleviate potential goose conflicts, it is important to get all affected neighbors involved, to develop a plan of action, and to stick with it. Mississippi's resident geese will start looking for nesting sites in late January or early February. Although a couple pairs of nesting geese may be quite enjoyable to watch courting, swimming, or loafing on a quiet lake, they will eventually reproduce and that small population of 4 geese could increase to 14 geese in a few short months. Canada geese can produce about 2 pounds of droppings per day, and so many birds in one location could present a real problem for some people. If more than a single pair of geese cannot be tolerated, then the first time any geese are encountered, they should be harassed until they leave a property. Harassing geese may take some persistence to be successful, but it is an important first step to success. Loud noises, barking dogs, bright lights, water hoses, and even remote-controlled toys are all very good tools for harassing geese.
If geese are continually showing up on a property, there is something appealing about that property. Any active feeding of geese must be stopped immediately so that habitat modifications and goose harassment can be effective. Unlike most wildlife, Canada geese actually prefer highly manicured lawns in urban or suburban areas. Healthy, green grass adjacent to a body of water in a predator-free area are the main ingredients to producing both a thriving goose population and upset landowners. Unfortunately, these areas are quite common throughout Mississippi. However, there are several effective methods to make a property less appealing to Canada geese. Solid barriers (i.e., fencing, large boulders at least 2 feet in diameter, 10 foot-wide buffer strips of tall vegetation, or a row of thick shrubs around the water's edge) can all be helpful habitat modifications and will make a property less appealing to geese. Barriers should be long enough so geese do not just walk around them to attractive foraging sites. Features like raised flowerbeds, islands, and peninsulas are especially attractive to nesting geese and removing such features where possible will help deter nest establishment. Chemical repellents can also be applied to yards to make grass unpalatable to geese, but repellents are expensive and must be frequently re-applied.
If Canada geese cannot be deterred and are nesting where they are not wanted, all is not lost. Interested landowners can register online at https://epermits.fws.gov/eRCGR/geSI.aspx between January 1 and June 30 each year to legally destroy nests and eggs of resident Canada geese. After registering, landowners or their agents must report their nest destruction efforts to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Remember, it is illegal for anyone to destroy goose nests without first securing permission through the USFWS via online registration. After registration, eggs may be destroyed by shaking them vigorously for 1 minute (i.e. addling), puncturing the large end of the egg with a sharp object, or coating them with corn oil and placing them back in the nest. Destroying the viability of eggs in this manner and placing them back in the nest will trick the nesting female into continuing to incubate the eggs, but these eggs will not hatch.
Hunting is considered the most effective method for reducing Canada goose numbers and should be encouraged if geese are located within an area where hunting is legal. Beginning in 2000, MDWFP has offered an early September goose hunting season to reduce resident Canada goose numbers. The season typically occurs from September 1 through September 15 with a daily bag limit of 5 Canada geese. To hunt waterfowl in Mississippi, a valid Mississippi hunting license and federal and state duck stamps must be obtained for people 16 years of age or older. Persons 65 years of age or older must only obtain federal and state duck stamps. In addition, Canada geese may be hunted in November, December, and January when Canada goose season is open.
Finally, if goose harassment, habitat modifications, nest destruction, and hunting do not work, there is another technique that may be used to reduce human-goose conflicts. A Federal Migratory Bird Depredation Permit authorizes lethal control of goose populations to provide for human health and safety, protect personal property, or allow resolution of other injury to people or property. An application for this permit may be downloaded from the USFWS website: http://www.fws.gov/forms/3-200-13.pdf. Applications for Depredation Permits may only be made after non-lethal management techniques have been implemented and have proved unsuccessful. To apply for the depredation permit, landowners must first get a Form-37 from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Wildlife Services. The USDA, Wildlife Services may be contacted at (662) 325-3014. Hopefully, this article will help you better understand Mississippi's resident Canada geese and help prevent or reduce Canada goose conflicts that may occur in the future.