The recent request for help to our Public Eye column about Canada geese afflicting residents near Historic Smithville brought back memories. For more than a decade, people there have complained about geese chewing up lawns, leaving droppings everywhere, and strolling across roads and stopping traffic.
Apparently nothing effective has been done to address the problem. But where there’s a will to manage resident Canada geese, there are several authorized ways.
Smithville’s problem Canada geese are almost certainly the resident subspecies and not the protected migratory subspecies.
Resident geese nest in the U.S. from March through June and reside in the lower 48 from April through August, say federal guidelines. They probably should no longer have “Canada” in their names. Their migratory relatives generally nest in Canada and visit the U.S. in winter.
The N.J. Department of Environmental Protection estimated the state had nearly 80,000 resident Canada geese in 2014. When they gather in areas, they can damage turf, increase erosion, cause crop losses, cover land with fecal matter and degrade water quality.
Methods to control them — some of which require registration or approval — include destroying nests and eggs, making habitat less appealing, and capturing and removing geese. Federal officials have conducted roundups in several New Jersey counties.
In fairness to the geese, the Towne of Historic Smithville originally (if inadvertently) encouraged them to take up residence by violating the first two management methods: Do not feed geese, and remove domestic ducks and geese. In its early days, the town put waterfowl in Lake Meone and sold feed for them to visitors.
But Smithville’s lake is ideal for another authorized form of management — harassment with radio-controlled boats. The tourist town has offered such boats for the amusement of visitors, and they could be put to use chasing resident geese. No permit is required as long as the geese aren’t harmed.
That might be fun, but removing eggs and geese would surely be more effective. Egg and nest destruction requires online registration and may be done March through June.
Capturing resident geese, permitted from April through August, is easier in late June/early July when molting leaves the birds grounded. Federal rules specify that captured geese may be “donated as a food source to charitable organizations,” an additional public benefit.
Hunting in general and the early geese seasons in several states don’t seem to make a difference. U.S. hunters take about half of the 5 million combined migratory/resident population each year with little effect. But the other methods work when used in concert.
Golf courses surely use them. They’re not going to allow this relatively new gaggle of freeloader geese to defile or destroy their fairways and greens.
If people put up with problem geese, it’s not for lack of options, just the will to do what’s needed.