The population of Canada geese (Branta canadensis) has been increasing in the United States since the 1960’s; although geese are a valuable resource to the ecology of an area, they can also become a nuisance when they accumulate in large numbers. In addition, they damage areas through over-grazing, pollute lawns and ponds and can become aggressive, particularly if they have young geese. However, there are ways to landscape your yard naturally in order to both keep geese out and repel them without using harmful chemicals.
About Canada Geese
Canada geese are most prevalent in the northern Atlantic states and Canada; geese have become non-migratory in some instances due to the wide availability of food in urban areas and the lack of natural predators, such as foxes and coyotes. Many cities have ponds, lakes and public park areas that geese have become comfortable with; there is then a natural progression for geese to wander into people’s yards, particularly if there is both water and grass available. Canada geese are herbivores and there is nothing that they like better than grazing on the lawn in your yard!
Legal Status of Canada Geese
Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in the United States. It is illegal to hunt or kill geese except by hunting permitted by the law, at certain times, with the correct legal permits. Therefore, you have to find legal ways to keep geese out of your yard.
Natural Habitat of Canada Geese
Geese like the natural habit that is found in many yards across the United States and Canada. Short, cut grass is perfect for geese to graze on. In addition, many new neighborhoods have developed around lakeside settings. Geese naturally make themselves at home and wander freely around the neighborhood. However, geese don’t like long grass or shrubbery; they also don’t like some particular species of plants.
Plants That Geese Won’t Eat
Changing the natural landscape of your yard can help to repel geese without harming them. Geese are partial to certain grass species; according to the BerryMan Institute, geese particularly like to graze on Kentucky bluegrass. However, there are some plant species that geese will avoid, in addition to a change in your yard landscape; these include:
- Tall Fescue Grass – fescue grass is a cool season grass that can be used as an alternative to Kentucky bluegrass. In addition, allowing the grass to grow tall will also repel geese.
- Euonymus – also known as spindle (tree). Euonymus are a flowering shrub species of the Celastraceae plant family; there are several species of euonymus to choose from.
- English Ivy (Hedera helix) – an evergreen climbing plant. However, it is often labeled as an invasive plant species in the United States; the sale of English ivy was recently banned in the state of Oregon, so check for any state restrictions.
- Periwinkle – a perennial vine or herb that is a member of the Apocynaceae plant family.
- Japanese Pachysandra – a perennial herb or sub shrub that has small white flowers. It is a member of the Buxaceae plant family.
- Natural Meadow and Wildflower Areas– depending on the size of your yard, landscaping with natural meadow and/or wildflowers will deter geese.
- Shrubbery and Tall Trees – geese don’t like areas that have a lot of shrubs and tall trees. According to the BerryMan Institute, shrubs and tall trees restrict geese’s ability to fly.
Other Natural Geese Repellents
Geese are intelligent and learn quickly so what works once may not continue to repel geese over time. If re-designing the natural landscaping in your yard isn’t possible, other non-lethal methods to repel geese include constructing a fence and restricting geese’s access to nearby water. Geese like to walk from water to lawn to graze, so make it more difficult for them to access the nearby water (if it is on your property) by fencing or bordering the water with shrubbery.
Keeping geese out of your yard can be a problem, particularly as the geese population rises in urban areas; however, there are effective natural goose repellents without resorting to illegal or dangerous tactics or chemicals.
Murray Lake Association website, Ecology
Gosser, A. L., M.R. Conover, and T.A. Messmer. 1997. Managing Problems Caused by Urban Canada Geese. Berryman Institute Publication 13, Utah State University, Logan, 8pp.
OregonLive website, Oregon Bans Sale of English Ivy, Butterfly Bushes: Eric Mortenson, The Oregonian, February 10, 2010
Department of Natural Resource (Maryland) website, When Resident Geese Become a Problem
Photo by dbrooker1