What’s Good for the Goose


I pass a lovely pond on a dairy farm between home and work that this time of year is thick with Canada Geese–more likely than not, following along behind the cattle to pick seeds out of the hay strewn out in long rows on the frozen ground.

In Rapid City last week, on our one pleasant day there, we went to nearby Canyon Lake Park. It was similarly swarming with Canadas that apparently wander far from the margins of the lake and into the play areas around swings and slides and such. I grabbed this shot from near the monkeybars.

Apparently I say because they had left their thick green calling cards liberally about as they foraged for another bite. We unavoidably carried samples of goose poop home in the treads of our shoes and couldn’t fix the problem even with lots of stomping in the patches of snow that persisted out front of my daughter’s house.

Ann resorted to using a stick. I just took my shoes off and left them at the door. But I wondered about the potential health effects of so many geese coexisting where so many people–and especially children–also live.

I know urban friends in Birmingham who keep slingshots and marbles at hand. The Canadas around the golf courses and yards are considered vermin–rats with wings. I imagine a healthy goose dumpling on a golf green would play heck with your putting game.

And despite their name, they’ve decided in recent decades that Canada is just too far to go and so they populate the manicured lawns and suburban pastures year ’round.

Do Canada Geese (a protected species) pose a public health risk? Can a land owner shoot and eat them? Should they be eradicated from public places in the most human manner possible?

Here’s a Human Society spin on those issues. Others are less tolerant.

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. Many golf courses these days get a goose dog – generally a border collie trained to round up and harass the geese (without harming them) until they decide to go elsewhere. That’s probably one of the most humane methods of goose control

  2. No, I don’t think you can harm them. Protected migratory birds are off limits. I know this because I’m trying to encourage about 200 black and turkey vultures to move from my property. They started roosting here three years ago and at first, I wasn’t too upset. Last year got to be tiresome, particularly after they damaged my roof and I suffered water damage after the first rain. To put it mildly, they smell bad and their excrement covers the ground in the woods. I talked to a person from USDA and he told me to Google “wildlife control pyrotechnics” to find noise makers to scare the vultures away. I did and ordered a couple of launchers, along with a generous supply of firecrackers and rockets to persuade these birds to find another home. It is legal to harass the birds, but you can’t harm them.