By Susan Russell
Excerpted from the full report.
In nature, no creature, especially man, exists in a vacuum. Results
will follow cause.
Canada geese respond to injurious human landscaping practices and
government and private waterfowl restocking programs. The leading
federal researchers agree: The birds pose no human health threat.
The facts beg one question: When our actions, appetites or whims have
consequences for other species, how should we respond?
Landscaping. Simple landscapes — mowed turf grass near water, open
vistas — play havoc with the Canada goose’s migratory and nesting
instincts. Protective parents seek clear, line-of-sight vistas that
allow for ready identification of predators.
The local park/pond/playground combo and the home association’s
manicured pond are neon vacancy signs for nesting geese. The ecological
hitch: These structurally simple landscapes are not indigenous to the
Northeast. Scientists say that nesting geese are an ecological symptom,
not the disease. Denuded of native vegetation and wildlife, poorly
landscaped parks are the biological equivalent of an indoor swimming
Experts advise that natural landscaping is the answer. “Geese, like
other waterfowl, are attracted to habitats that meet their basic needs,”
notes Transport Canada. “Habitat modification is the best overall
approach to long-term bird control.”
“Communities that no longer enjoy the company of geese need to
withdraw their invitation,” writes the Delaware Riverkeeper. “Anger,
stone throwing, scare tactics, use of dogs and egg addling are neither
the right nor the most effective response. The most effective,
sustainable and cost beneficial way to force geese to move on, to
continue their migration, is to revegetate our stream banks and
Ecological restoration can reduce pesticide dependence, improve
immediate soil, air and water quality, promote a desired natural
aesthetic, and restore habitat for humans and wildlife.
Diagrammed habitat modification guides provide managers with
practical principles for landscape restoration. Limited restoration
improves and beautifies landscapes for many species, including humans.
Modification for geese means blocking vistas by strategic placement of
shrubs, grasses, wildflowers, gates, fences, natural barriers and
What about health risks? In 1999, the National Wildlife Health Center
studied 12 sites in Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Virginia to determine
if organisms that may cause human disease are present in goose feces.
The federal researchers reported:
Low frequency of positive cultures indicate that risk to humans of
disease through contact with Canada geese feces appeared to be minimal
at the four sites in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Virginia during the
summer and early fall of 1999.
In May 2005, Kathryn Converse, lead author of the study, told The
Greenwich Time that health claims are unfounded: “My feeling is if
they want to remove the geese, they should be upfront, honest with why
they don’t want them there. I personally have never seen an article
through a medical journal or the Centers for Disease Control that linked
an episode of human health to Canada geese.”
If appropriate, landscape restoration is essential; education
fostering respect and appreciation for native wildlife is equally so.
Both begin to reconcile society’s stated ecological concerns with our
actions, particularly in our own back yard. Most people already live
peaceably with Canada geese.
A true ecological ethic transcends farming wildlife for commercial
gunning, and means more than the self-interest of purchasing green
cleaning products. This is especially true on the heels of deer and
goose management debacles, for which deer and geese pay the highest
Facts, not ignorance, should contribute to a wider understanding and
a fully informed response to wildlife buffeted by both management and
Susan Russell, Little Silver, was a lobbyist for New
Jersey’s laws banning steel-jaw traps and the importation of wild,
exotic birds for the pet trade.