Why Kill Canada ("Canadian") Geese?
There have been a lot of recent news stories and heated opinions about mass culls of Canada geese, both real and proposed. New York City recently culled a large collection of geese from Prospect Park, and the New York Times is reporting that seventeen states in the Northeast are planning to kill and bury 450,000 Canada geese.
Why are Canada geese a problem?
Canada geese are one of the few species of wildlife which has benefited from the changes humanity makes to the environment. Although Canada geese (sometimes mistakenly called “Canadian geese”)are technically a migratory species, like rats, deer, and pigeons, a lot of Canada geese have lost their migratory ways and settled down to live with us. (There are still a lot of wild Canada geese which really do migrate, of course.)
Humans have created a perfect habitat for Canada geese. We like broad fields with short grass and small ponds, and so do the geese. We have also driven away the chief predators of Canada geese – foxes, coyotes, and hawks. Although urban environments offer dogs and cats as predators, Canada geese are only vulnerable as goslings. And geese are very effective at driving predators away from goslings.
Each year a sedentary population of geese inhabits a park, its flock grows bigger. The bigger the flock, the better it is able to defend itself, and the more goslings it rears to adulthood. A small flock of five geese can quickly turn into a huge flock of hundreds within just a few seasons.
Canada geese are belligerent towards children, pets, and even grown adults. The entire flock will act to repel an invader. It’s one thing if that perceived threat is a coyote after fluffy yellow goslings. It’s quite another if that perceived threat is a toddler or small child. An aggressive goose can break bones with the leading edge of its wings. Being attacked by a goose is reportedly like being hit by a honking, hissing pair of baseball bats.
Canada geese are aggressive against other waterfowl, too. They drive away native waterfowl, claiming entire swaths of water for themselves. This is a tough time for native and migratory waterfowl, with habitat destruction threatening many species. Add the Canada geese to those pressures, and the situation can get quite dire for our more mild-mannered waterfowl.
Canada geese pose a significant hazard to air travel. US Airways Flight 1549, which landed in the Hudson River, was brought down by a stray flock of geese. Geese aren’t terrorists, but they can have the same effects!
Canada geese droppings spread disease. They spread parasites such as roundworm, which threatens native wildlife with infections. They also leave a prodigious amount of poop behind, which is not only aesthetically sub-optimal, it also increases bacteria counts in the ground and nearby waterways. Goose poop is thought to be responsible for a significant amount of fecal coliform levels in many formerly swimmable ponds and lakes.
Canada geese droppings are bad for the environment. Bird droppings are high in nitrogen, which acts like a fertilizer. Adding nitrogen to a waterway like a lake or stream is a bad idea! It causes algae blooms, which consume all the oxygen in the water and choke off fish, insects, and other plants. These algae blooms later die and turn toxic, creating another problem.
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