Greater numbers of Canada geese expected to remain in New Jersey during winter


The annual goose migration to Rutgers is approaching. From loud honking to ruining shoes with their droppings, Canada geese are well-known on campus.

People expect geese to fly south in the winter, but an overpopulation of Canada geese has led to large numbers remaining in the state, said Brooke Maslo, an extension specialist in the Department of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources in their fact sheet, “Canada Goose Ecology and Impacts in New Jersey."

This increasing population stems from the adaptable nature of geese, and they “benefit significantly from human dominated landscapes,” inhabiting “large expanses of mowed lawns … corporate campuses, residential developments and golf courses," said Maslo and Chloe Lewis, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior.

Canada geese like to build their nests in open areas in order to keep watch for predators. While the goslings waddling around campus may be amusing to some, the overpopulation of these feathered neighbors comes with a downside, they said.

Damage to agricultural crops and landscaping is one adverse impact, said Joseph B. Paulin, program associate in Wildlife Management, and David Drake, an extension specialist in Wildlife Management, in their fact sheet “Positive Benefits and Negative Impacts of Canada Geese.”

“Overgrazing and trampling of turf grasses, as well as other grassy areas are common complaints from groundskeepers of golf courses and athletic fields. Associated labor and re-seeding costs can be very expensive,” Paulin and Drake said.

Overall crop production decreases due to overgrazing, and the increased amount of goose feces raises water quality and health issues. Livestock that drink from these contaminated water sources may also be at risk for disease that can spread to humans, they said.

Not only do goose droppings have bacteria that are harmful to humans, but it also causes other annoyances, they said.

“Parents whose children play on fields littered with goose feces have become concerned about the increased chances of slipping-related injuries. In parks and elsewhere the costs for employees cleaning-up goose droppings have added to the overall expense of managing resident Canada geese,” they said.

Humans are not the only victims of the goose invasion. 

Organisms that inhabit ponds and lakes are also affected, according to “Pond and Lake Management Part III: Controlling Geese and Other Pests” by Christopher C. Obropta, extension specialist in Water Resources, and Eileen Althouse, a graduate assistant in Bioresource Engineering.

Chemical compounds in feces increase the growth of algae and plants that thrive in ponds or lakes. These compounds are why manure is often used for plant fertilizer, according to Obropta and Althouse's other fact sheet, “Pond and Lake Management Part I: Dealing with Aquatic Plants & Algal Blooms.” 

The thriving population of algae and other plants may sound beneficial, but increased growth means increased demand for oxygen, which means other aquatic wildlife, such as fish, do not get the amount of oxygen they need for survival, they said.

Scarecrows can be effective in deterring geese, but after some time the animals are used to the deterrents. A ban on feeding geese in public parks also limits their food supply and discourages them from returning to the area, according to "Pond and Lake Management Part III: Controlling Geese and Other Pests."

“It is permissible to harass Canada geese without a Federal or State permit, as long as these geese are not touched or handled by a person or the agent of a person (e.g., a trained dog),” according to the article.

People could prevent the spread of harmful bacteria from geese feces through methods such as avoiding droppings and washing hands after coming into contact, said Paulin and Drake.


Allison Bautista

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