Learning to live with the Canada goose, a veritable “poo machine”

Ask Dan Hicks about the iconic Canada goose, and the first thing you’ll get will be a laugh.

“Oh, you mean the ever-changing goose chase?” Hicks said in a phone interview from his office with the City of Moncton.

As director of parks operations with the city, he has dealt with bird complaints for years.

“That’s what they leave behind,” Hicks said, “They’re pretty prolific in that regard.”

Dan Hicks, Moncton Parks Operations Manager, has tried several methods to reduce the impact of geese. (Shane Magee/CBC)

There’s a good reason why people will describe a fast and efficient process as being comparable to the speed at which droppings move through a goose.

Estimates suggest that a goose will poop several times per hour and up to 20 times per day.

Thus, a flock of 20 to 30 Canada geese can do damage in a short time.

“You see people doing the two-step Canada goose around the trails in the park,” Hicks said with a laugh.

But the results of this prolific production are no laughing matter to Hicks and his parks employees.

Moncton uses floating lights that flash every two to four seconds at night to keep Canada geese awake and deter them from using Jones Lake and Centennial Park. (Away With Geese / Submissive)

Hicks said he’s seen spots where they’ve counted five to 10 “little goodies” per square foot of lawn.

Birds can prevent people from enjoying urban green spaces, by littering grassy areas with droppings and adopting aggressive behavior to defend their nests and young.

Faeces, if plentiful enough and close to water, can also cause E. coli contamination, leading to algae blooms and bans on swimming and other recreation.

Hicks said the city spends about $15,000 a year buying equipment to discourage geese from nesting where they’re not wanted.

There are also a few days of work to install this equipment and hours spent monitoring its operation.

And sometimes it’s only marginally effective.

A flock of Canada geese are rounded up by biologists on Toronto Island in June 1993 to be shipped to New Brunswick for release. Approximately 4,000 Canada geese were introduced to New Brunswick in the 1990s in this manner. (Radio Canada)

It has not always been so.

For decades, Canada geese have been a rare sight in New Brunswick.

According to Assessing species diversity in the Atlantic Maritime Ecozone, published in 2010, there are reports of Canada geese nesting in New Brunswick in the 1800s and early 1900s, but the population was likely hunted in 1905.

Occasionally thereafter, Canada geese were seen in New Brunswick, but it was not until the early 1990s that breeding populations began to be reported in Maine and southern New Brunswick. Braunschweig.

Most of these birds are thought to have been introduced, deliberately or accidentally.

Then, in 1993, the provincial government of Frank McKenna began importing Canada geese from Ontario.

Canada geese are loaded onto a truck in Toronto, bound for New Brunswick. (Radio Canada)

These geese, known as giant Canada geese, were genetically different from the geese that once inhabited New Brunswick.

And their recent appearance in Ontario and Quebec was causing headaches for people tending to green spaces in southern municipalities in both provinces.

In June 1993, 500 people were rounded up in a Toronto park, put on trucks and brought to New Brunswick.

The man behind the idea, Pat Kehoe, who was the province’s wetland habitat manager, was asked by a CBC Toronto reporter at the time why New Brunswick wanted them.

Kehoe replied, “Because you don’t want it.”

Canada Geese in a Moncton park in 2013. (Kate Letterick/CBC)

Kehoe, who now works for Ducks Unlimited, declined to be interviewed for this article.

Eventually, over 4,000 Canada geese from Ontario were introduced to the area in the mid-1990s, in an effort to create a population for hunting.

And not everyone thought that was a good idea.

Alain Clavette, naturalist and ornithologist, is one of the many people who have sounded the alarm.

“I remember back then we were like, ‘Don’t do that. It’s stupid,'” Clavette said in a phone interview. “You’re actually introducing a subspecies of Canada geese that we’re not even sure of here in the territory ever.

“And they were going to take them because in Ontario they were wreaking havoc.”

Ornithologist Alain Clavette said the decision to introduce Canada geese to New Brunswick was a mistake. “It’s a man-made problem.” (Twitter)

Clavette said he was concerned that large, aggressive birds would compete with smaller waterfowl for nesting areas and food.

He said he had seen evidence of this in the pond on his own property, where he used to see various species of waterfowl, but not anymore.

“What do you think is going on? There are two pairs of Canada geese. That’s it. That’s it,” Clavette said.

“Every variety of green-winged teal and wood duck and everything that might be… nesting in this little wetland area that I created, it’s been overrun by geese.”

Clavette said he’s seen similar situations in wetlands in southeastern New Brunswick, including Bell Street Marsh in Moncton, also known as Wilson Marsh.

He calls it a man-made problem, an introduction that has been compounded by the way we create green spaces.

A family of Canada geese. Adult geese can be aggressive, especially when they have goslings. (Al Hanson/Submitted)

“If we stopped treating the environment like a goddamn golf course…you know, the shrubs, the tall grasses, the wild plants – they don’t [even try] that stuff,” Clavette said. “They hate it. If a fox can hide in any type of environment, he hates being there.

“But what we’re doing, we’re reducing all of that and replacing it. [with] grass. Grass in the open.”

It is difficult to know exactly how many Canada geese are now in New Brunswick.

“We don’t have absolute numbers,” said Al Hanson, aquatic assessment manager for the Canadian Wildlife Service in the Atlantic region.

“But we do an annual waterfowl survey across the province and it shows that what we call temperate-breeding Canada goose populations are increasing in New Brunswick.”

In fact, Hanson said, the population has been growing in northeastern North America for decades.

And, he said, the decision to relocate a population here likely only hastened the inevitable.

“Even if this introduction hadn’t happened in the early 1990s, the geese probably would have been here and moved into this area anyway as part of this larger population increase from eastern Europe. ‘North America.”

Short fence installed along a section of Jones Lake. It was also used around the island at Centennial Park. (Kate Letterick/CBC News)

Hanson said the thinking at the time was that New Brunswick, having a more rural hunting culture, would keep the populations in check.

“But there’s a bit of a disconnect, even in New Brunswick, between where these guys live and the hunting opportunities,” he said.

Nuisance geese cause headaches in urban settings, where hunting is simply not possible.

So the solution now is to find ways to discourage geese from nesting and living in urban green spaces.

For Dan Hicks in Moncton and municipal staff in New Brunswick communities, it’s a bit of a headache.

Hicks has plenty of tricks in his arsenal. He put flashing lights in the ponds at night to irritate the geese.

The city places nets near the water’s edge, hoping that the lack of access to water will discourage geese from nesting because it will be impossible to bring flightless goslings to the safety of the pond.

They’ve had some success with that.

They also try coyote decoys and something called a Fly-Away laser, “essentially a big flashlight.”

In 2013, Hicks even experimented with the Goosinator, a bright orange remote-controlled vehicle meant to scare geese.

Dan Hicks said the Goosinator was fun to use, but didn’t seem to worry the geese much. (Radio Canada)

Hicks said he and his team had a lot of fun driving it, but after a week of free trial it was clear he wasn’t ‘goosing’ anything and had been sent back to the company that took it. had created.

The most recent experiment is a fake alligator to be docked in a pond, though Hicks said they’ll be sure to notify 911 operators in case it spooks human visitors.

Hicks said it was all about finding a balance the two species can live with, while avoiding harsher tactics like mixing eggs, moving birds or culling a nuisance flock.

“We’re not there yet, and I hope we won’t be there.”