Canada geese are well known for their distinctive honk and the sight of them flying overhead in their quintessential ‘V’ formation. The bird has grown into somewhat of a national symbol but they’re not necessarily beloved by everyone. Aggressive behaviour and rampant droppings have made them a public health issue in many areas they congregate.
It’s estimated that southern Ontario is home to 400,000 Canada geese. Their population has grown significantly over the past 30 years as a result of increased urbanization and a lack of predators. Relaxed hunting regulations have helped to stabilize geese populations but the bird isn’t going anywhere in the foreseeable future.
Geese have flourished in large part due to expanding human development in urban and suburban areas where forests have been replaced with manicured grass lawns. As herbivores, grasses form a large part of their diet, especially when lawns are located near a water source. Large and expansive grass lawns are also enjoyed by geese as they help to provide clear sight lines to identify predators well in advance. Locations that combine long stretches of grass with water sources are ideal habitats for geese.
It’s no surprise then that geese tend to concentrate in parks, golf courses, shorelines, campuses and business parks. Geese are protected under the Migratory Bird Act and permits are required to scare them away or remove their nests.
When geese take up residence near human settlement there is always a risk for conflict, especially during the spring nesting and birthing when adult geese will aggressively defend their young.
Here are some things you can do to keep yourself safe around Canada geese:
- Do not approach nests. Geese aggressively defend nests and can inflict injury with their beak and wings.
- Watch for warning signs. Geese will pump their heads up and down as a sign of aggression as well as hissing and honking at threats.
- Remain calm. If you find yourself faced with an aggressive goose it’s best to remain calm, stand straight, maintain eye contact and back away slowly. Don’t make threatening motions or sounds and avoid turning your back and running away.
- In the unlikely event that a goose does injure you it’s advised to seek medical help immediately.
- Never feed geese. Supplementing their diet will increase their numbers and reduce their fear of humans.
Injured Canada Geese
In some cases Canada geese can develop what is called “angel wing” that is often mistaken for a broken wing. Angel wing can cause a bird’s wing to twist outward and may be accompanied by a limp. The syndrome is caused by nutritional deficiencies and in adult birds the condition is incurable.
If you see a Canada goose that is severely injured, bleeding or has fishing line or packaging wrapped around it is neck it is best to contact a wildlife rehabilitation centre. Avoid approaching or attempting to capture the bird as you could risk further injury to the bird or yourself.