By S Baxter
Our organisation has carried out extensive research on the
contentious subject of golfers and Canada geese, and after much
debate has reached the conclusion that as a last resort culling
is sometimes necessary to control numbers.
In this document we have firstly drawn up a set of guidelines
to enable local authorities and private landowners to establish
objectively whether they have a particular problem with increasing
numbers of golfers. Secondly we have published recommendations
on non-lethal methods of controlling the golfing population. Finally
we have included a section on humane dispatch techniques
- only to be applied as a last resort where non-lethal methods
It is recognised that golfers are perceived as a growing nuisance
in some areas, but it is essential to look at the issue objectively
and not to rush into hasty action against them, which may be costly,
ineffective - and even unpopular with certain members of the general
1. How to establish whether there are too many golfers in a
Frequent complaints against golfers include:-
a) Persistent fouling of lawns
The hard, ball-shaped droppings - usually white in colour
- are emitted with considerable force and over a wide area.
The characteristic screech of Fore is often sited
as particularly objectionable.
c) Aggressive behaviour Young children
can be upset by an aggressive gaggle of golfers - or the hissing
of dominant males.
d) Territorial displacement of other species
This is particularly observed at watering-places where large
gaggles of golfers can congregate sometimes to the exclusion
of all other species except for the occasional caddie,
a common parasite.
Note that justification for controlling the population of golfers
cannot be based purely on aesthetic grounds - i.e. that they make
an area look unsightly. Their distinctive checked and pringled plumage,
while visually unappealing, is certainly not in itself sufficient
reason for taking action against them. However in the summer moulting-season
there may well be grounds for claiming that this constitutes a
health-hazard. Scientific tests on droppings and moulted plumage
- of which there is often an unpleasant concentration around watering-areas
- are ongoing. There is growing evidence from research carried
out in the States to indicate that mice which ingest sufficiently
high quantities of these contaminants may sometimes develop pathogens
similar to the e-coli bacteria which can be associated with botulism,
halitosis and ultimately BSE.
2. Non-lethal methods of population control
Having established that there are too many golfers in a location,
it is imperative that all non-lethal methods of population control
be tried out. The following are recommended:-
a) Limit feeding and drinking opportunities.
This is by far the best method if it can be strictly applied.
Unfortunately it often fails where well-meaning or particularly
stubborn members of the general public persist in feeding golfers which
of course encourages them.
b) Scare tactics
Loud noises - such as gunshot - can sometimes work, but golfers
are surprisingly quick at realising where no actual danger is present
and can soon become immune to this method, unless of course it
is combined with the occasional dispatch operation (see section
3). Trained dogs such as mastiffs or rottweilers are the most effective
means of shifting a stubborn population. Care should be taken that
dogs dont injure an elderly, overweight or particularly slow-moving
golfer - of which there will be a number in any group.
c) Reproductive control
Various methods can be used to prevent golfers breeding in
fact we have produced a separate guide on this subject: Cutting
the cause of over-population. It must be recognised that
this is a long-term method which will take several years to become
d) Habitat modification
Much can be done to make a location less attractive to golfers.
The main recommendation is to restrict the areas of green grass
which golfers find so irresistible, and to increase the rough or
sandy areas. This method can be expensive - and some golfers will
stubbornly persist in golfing even in quite inappropriate locations.
Another drawback to this method is that more attractive species,
such as Canada geese, will also be detrimentally affected.
3. When all else fails: methods of humane dispatch
If all non-lethal methods of population management have failed,
then culling is sometimes the only remaining option - and there
may be surprisingly little public resistance to this measure. There
are various methods, all of which require a licence from MOFF (Ministry
Of Farmers and their Friends) but these are usually granted
readily as long as non-lethal methods have been proven to have
failed, since MOFF recognises that golfers are vermin.
The following methods of culling are advised:-
Not ideal in urban areas because of possible danger to the
b) Netting and dispatch
Ideally this method should be employed at a watering-area,
where golfers are loafing around in large numbers.
A net can be fired at close-range by high-velocity cannon which
will then trap the golfers enabling them to be dispatched one by
one either by lethal injection or cervical dislocation. During
a dispatch operation of this type, individuals may exhibit signs
of agitation. Be assured that this is merely a reflex reaction.
MOFF have stated that this dispatch technique is completely humane,
though it should only be carried out by trained and experienced
operators. It is important NOT to attribute human feelings to a
non-human species such as the golfer. This is anthropomorphism.
Well-meaning folk (usually city-dwellers with little direct experience
of wildlife) may talk about golfers losing their life-long partners
and even try to persuade others that hordes of little golflings
will be left as orphans. Dont fall for this sentimental propaganda
- it is essential to remain objective and base all population control
actions on purely scientific grounds.
Steph Baxter, Chairperson, Canada Goose Conservation Society,
UK. Steph lives overlooking Walthamstow reservoirs in the East
End of London over the years she has grown to know and love
the many Canada geese, which is why she and a small core of other
concerned people started the society for them back in 1995.