When You Feed Geese
By Richard D. Gainar, CEBS – Lake Management Committee
The Canada Goose is one of the most beautiful animals in the world. But in recent years, flocks of local-nesting or “resident” geese have become year-round inhabitants of our recreational areas, waterways, and residential areas, where they can cause significant problems.
When you feed geese, you convince them that Roaming Shores has a year-round supply of free, easily-accessible food – too nice a place to leave. Thus some of these migratory birds have literally stopped migrating. Winter food shortages used to induce their yearly flight south, but free food handouts from naive citizens and their guests–who think they’re doing the geese a favor–can short-circuit millions of years of evolutionary instinct compelling the geese to stay put.
In actuality, you aren’t doing the geese any favors when you feed them (or any other wildlife). Bread and popcorn are incredibly harmful to both individual animals and entire populations. Filled up on junk food, the birds won’t seek out the natural, protein-rich staples of their usual diet, leading to widespread malnutrition and wing deformity in goslings. Further, biologically unsustainable population spikes lead to the quick spread of Enteritis, Aspergillus, and Avian Botulism, diseases that have killed scores of birds across North America.
Hand-feeding doesn’t just hurt birds. Unwieldy bird populations are also potentially harmful to humans: goose feces contain E.coli, Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Cryptosporidium. Exposure to contaminated droppings can also cause Swimmer’s Itch and hypersensitivity pneumonitis. Feeding (and pooping) usually occurs in the most accessible areas, making a mess of heavily used walkways, lawns, boat ramps, docks and parking areas. In the Shores, goose poop is everywhere.
The long-term answer is acting responsibly when we interact with our environment – do not ever, under any circumstances, feed a Canada Goose. And if you see someone doing it, politely inform them that despite their good intentions, they are actually harming the animals by malnutrition, increasing disease vectors, and preventing them from migrating. Be Lake Responsible.