Goose harassment – what to do if a Canada Goose harasses you

The Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is a large North American migratory bird of Canada and the northern United States. It can grow to 75-110 centimetres (30-43 inches) tall, with a wingspan of 127-185 centimetres (50-73 inches). So, it can be a fierce-looking bird when it chases humans. 

It is mainly herbivorous, eating grass, but it will also eat insects and fish – not humans. 

Canada Goose

In December 2022, the New Scientist LIFE magazine describes an experiment published in the Wildlife Society Bulletin to reduce the Canada Goose harassment of humans during nesting season. 

Ryan Askren, a researcher at the University of Illinois, and his research colleagues, tested to see what would happen if humans ‘harassed’ Canada Geese first – before the geese harassed the researchers. 

The researchers tested whether shooing them away would make them stay away. 

They fitted the geese in Marquette Park in Chicago with GPS trackers and activity monitors to record their behavior. The researchers then ‘harassed’ the geese – they repeatedly shooed, or chased, the geese out of the park by walking or driving towards them and banging wooden boards together. 

The Canada Geese left the park, but they soon came back. 

The trackers recorded that the geese returned to the park twice as quickly on the days that they were harassed, compared with the days when the geese were left to do whatever they normally do on their own accord. Ryan Askren said that the geese did not see humans as a real threat, just a mild annoyance. 

The director of humane wildlife conflict resolution at the Humane Society of the United States, Lynsey White, says that geese in cities are used to people and vehicles, so she thinks it is not surprising that being chased away by people is not an effective form of harassment to keep them away.

Ryan Askren says that humans have encroached on the geese’s territory, so chasing them away is not effective. 

He says the best way to control conflict with the Canada Geese is to modify the habitat to make it less hospitable for geese. This includes planting tall grass and shrubs along shorelines to make it more difficult for the geese to move between the water, where they usually live, and the open lawns of the park. 

Therefore, chasing the geese away makes them return to the park twice as quickly than if they were not chased away. Leaving them alone may mean less conflict between humans and geese during the nesting season – and learning to share the park together. Or grow taller grass between the geese’s wetland home and the park where humans like to visit. 

Journal reference: Wildlife Society BulletinDOI: 10.1002/wsb.1384

Canada Goose
Canada Goose

Location of photographs: Parc Zoologique de Paris in Bois de Vincennes, France

Photographer: Martina Nicolls


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