Environment and Climate Change Canada

The issue in briefEnvironment and Climate Change Canada Canadian Wildlife Service (EC CWS) primary responsibility is the conservation of migratory birds, which includes Canada GeeseCanada Geese have experienced extraordinary growth in abundance and expanded their geographic rangeIn particular, those Canada Geese that nest, raise their young and/or moult in the most heavily populated areas of southern Canada have increased rapidlyThe population growth is caused by human induced changes to the landscape that favour Canada GeeseIn addition, during the 1970s 1990s wildlife agencies and individuals introduced Canada Geese to areas they had not inhabited naturallyIn parallel with the population growth, the number of serious conflicts between geese and people is growingThe Migratory Birds Convention recognizes that birds may sometimes cause damage and danger, and provides management tools to reduce those conflicts (no migratory birds, their eggs or nests may be harmed without a permit)These tools include permits that may be issued to qualified landowners or managers to scare birds away from the problem area, destroy eggs, relocate problem birds and/or kill birdsApplication of the tools is complicated by the wide range of tolerances toward serious damage and danger caused by Canada Geese; this tolerance varies from person to person, and from place to place, depending on the particular circumstancesMost landowners are tolerant of the effects on property caused by small numbers of geese, while at the same time the damage caused by any geese are too serious for some individualsHunting at current levels is not enough to stop the population growth and hunting regulations have been liberalized to the extent possible within the limits permitted for hunting seasons under the Migratory Birds Convention Act (MBCA)In many areas, Canada Goose populations have not reached the carrying capacity of the habitat and there is no biological reason to expect that these populations will stop growing in the short termIn the United States, Canada Geese have been declared overabundant and as such are currently subject to special take by hunters outside of hunting seasonsAt the present time the conservation status of Canada Geese is not threatened; populations in all regions are well above objectives; there is no conservation risk to providing permits to eligible people who need them to reduce damage and danger caused by Canada Geese on their propertyEC CWS monitoring programs will inform management agencies when and if a change in policy and approach is needed to maintain control efforts at the appropriate level in accordance with regional population objectives

QuestionsThe Status of Canada GeeseWhat is the status of Canada Geese?Sometimes I hear the terms “resident geese” and “temperate breeding Canada Geese”. What are they?Why did some Canada geese stop migrating?Are Canada Geese protected and can they be hunted?How many Canada Geese were present historically?Why have Canada Goose populations grown so much?Are Canada Geese overabundant?How do current populations of Canada Geese compare to the population objectives?What are Cackling Geese?Conflicts Between Geese and PeopleWhat kind of problems do the geese cause?What is “damage”?Do goose droppings pose a danger to human health?What action does EC CWS propose to address the conflicts?Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994?”>How do these actions ensure that Canada Geese are protected as required by the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994?Tools for Reducing ConflictsI am currently suffering damage due to Canada Geese. We enjoy watching those geese every year. What can I do about this?Can Canada Geese killed under damage or danger permits be eaten?Ensuring Conservation While Reducing ConflictsWhat effect will the management tools have on Canada Geese?What assurances are there that these management actions would not harm the population?Who makes the ultimate permitting decision?Are permits to kill Canada Geese being issued in Canada?AnswersThe Status of Canada GeeseWhat is the status of Canada Geese?Canada geese have increased dramatically in abundance and geographic distribution during recent decades. Most regional surveys show that Canada goose numbers are either increasing or stable, but overall they are at unprecedented numbers. It is estimated that there are at least 7 million Canada Geese present in North America. In many parts of southern Canada, Canada geese exist in large numbers where only 30 years ago they were uncommon, and 55 years ago were considered to be extirpated. In general, all populations of Canada Geese are stable or increasing at the present time. For more information about the status of Canada Geese,

Sometimes I hear the terms “resident geese” and “temperate breeding Canada Geese”. What are they?Canada Geese occur throughout North America. However, in some regions, the climate is sufficiently mild that Canada Geese are able to breed and spend the winter in the same place; these geese are sometimes referred to as geese The term is more commonly used in the United States where large parts of the country support geese throughout the year, although there are some parts of Canada where the geese also remain through the winter. term Canada Geese refers loosely to Canada Geese which breed in the southern parts of Canada where the majority of Canadians live.

Why did some Canada geese stop migrating?Canada geese return to nest where they first learned to fly. Canada geese breeding in southern Canada are not northern geese that stopped migrating, they are the result of the natural increase of populations that were re introduced or introduced for the first time. The present day southern landscape provides an abundance of high quality habitat for geese so they have expanded greatly in numbers and distribution. Northern breeding geese still maintain their historic migratory behaviour nesting in Canada sub arctic regions and wintering in the United States of America (USA).

Are Canada Geese protected and can they be hunted?Yes, Canada Geese are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994 (MBCA). This Act arose from an international treaty the Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the United States, signed in 1916. The MBCA provides for the protection and conservation of migratory birds, and prohibits people from harming birds, except under specified conditions. Several species, including Canada geese, are considered game birds and may be hunted. The Act gives the federal government the responsibility to establish hunting seasons, and Canada Geese are greatly appreciated by migratory game bird hunters across the country. More than 500 000 Canada Geese are taken in Canada each year by hunters.

How many Canada Geese were present historically?Canada Geese nested historically in some parts of southern Canada, particularly in open grassland areas with wetlands. These habitats in south western Ontario and the southern Prairies supported breeding populations of Canada Geese at the time of settlement, although it is not known how many birds were present then. This landscape change also benefits the Canada Geese that nest in sub arctic regions. Further, in other parts of the country, Canada Geese are not native and are present only as a result of intentional introductions by humans. Both introduced (southern BC, Qubec, Maritime provinces) and indigenous (southern Prairie Provinces, southern Ontario) populations have grown at an extraordinary rate to the point where they are causing unacceptable damage and danger in local areas.

Why have Canada Goose populations grown so much?The extraordinary growth of Canada Geese, like that of many species of geese, has occurred because of their adaptability to environments that have been heavily influenced by human populations. In southern Canada, Canada Geese live in mild climates with abundant wetland and grassland habitats, and few natural predators. gravitate to suburban and urban areas where they are not only protected from predators, but also are safe from hunting. On top of this, sources of food are more abundant and of higher nutritional value than in the past, primarily due to the expansion of agricultural activities on the land, and the adaptation by geese to foraging in these environments. combination of factors contributes to consistently high annual production of young birds and increases their ability to survive from year to year. The unprecedented abundance of high quality food on the landscape also benefits geese that breed in northern Canada by allowing them to survive in greater numbers over winter and more easily accumulate reserves needed for egg laying.

Are Canada Geese overabundant?Many people have used the term with respect to some Canada Geese. However, to be designated as overabundant under the Migratory Birds Regulations, a species must go through a formal evaluation process. The process involves analysis of the distribution and abundance, comparison to EC CWS objectives for the population and evaluation of any damage or danger being caused the species. The designation allows use of an additional management tool, which is to offer additional opportunities for harvest outside of the dates prescribing traditional hunting seasons. To date, EC CWS has not undertaken this analysis for Canada Geese although it may be required in future.

How do current populations of Canada Geese compare to the population objectives?At the present time, Canada Geese exceed population objectives in several parts of the country.

What are Cackling Geese?The Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) is a species of goose that looks very similar to the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis). Both species share the characteristic black head and neck with a white cheek patch, but Cackling Geese nest in the arctic and tend to be much smaller in size than are Canada Geese. Recent studies have shown that Cackling Geese overlap little with Canada Geese in size and distribution, and are genetically quite distinct, and therefore constitute a separate species.

Conflicts Between Geese and PeopleWhat kind of problems do the geese cause?There are a number of ways in which geese may cause damage or danger to people. At airports, Canada Geese can be a significant safety threat to aircraft, creating dangerous takeoff and landing conditions, and most airports conduct active hazing programs to reduce this possibility. Nesting Canada geese will actively defend their nest sites, and aggressive pairs can sometimes cause injuries, especially to small children or pets. Large flocks of Canada Geese can denude grassy areas, including parks, pastures, golf courses, lawns, and other landscaped areas where the grass is kept short and where there are ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water nearby, necessitating expensive turf management activities by landowners. Agricultural and natural resource damage, including depredation of grain crops, overgrazed pastures and degraded water quality, have increased as Canada Goose populations have grown. may also conflict with the objectives of conservation agencies for other species or sensitive ecosystems. This conflict occurs when geese negatively affect other species directly through aggression or more indirectly through the effects of grazing on habitats.

What is “damage”?Damage refers to the effect of activities of the geese. Damage usually results in an economic loss to the landowner or land manager because of spoiled crops, the costs of cleaning goose droppings or the expenses of turf management. Many landowners are tolerant of the effects of small numbers of geese on their property and are willing to bear any associated small costs. However, the damage caused by any number of geese may be considered too serious by others. While most of the reported problems to date have occurred on developed, private property, increasing numbers of Canada geese are also affecting natural ecosystems in some locations. This kind of damage may have implications for conservation of other wildlife and/or sensitive ecosystems.

Do goose droppings pose a danger to human health?EC CWS worked with wildlife disease experts at the Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative to review the diseases carried by and affecting Canada Geese, and their implications for human and animal health. There is no direct evidence that goose droppings pose a danger to human health, and the review concluded that there is not enough data to conduct a meaningful risk assessment. They found large gaps in most of the important factors which are key to determining risk; most importantly, there is virtually no information on the frequency or probability with which pathogens are transmitted from geese to people or livestock. The report is available on Canadian Wildlife Health Cooperative (CWHC) website. However, the Act also recognizes that there are times when the damage or danger caused by birds must be addressed, and provides tools for dealing with the situations where birds come into conflict with humans. Population monitoring ensures that populations are maintained at sustainable levels.

Tools for Reducing ConflictsI am currently suffering damage due to Canada Geese. What can I do?First, you should read the information available in the EC Handbook at the following website: Handbook Canada and Cackling Geese: Management and Population Control in Southern Canada