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Canada Geese -- we love you, but please fly away
By Constance Young
I remember some of my most wonderful times as a young girl were when I visited my aunt and uncle in their Westport Connecticut home which boasted a large manmade lake. I remember my excitement when learning that my uncle had imported two Canada geese to live on in the lake. In those days, Canada geese were rare in this area. I won't say when this was, but here's a clue: television was in its infancy and people read and did crafts instead of watching the tube. My uncle's prized geese were imported all the way from Canada. I thought them to be wonderful creatures -- elegant and beautifully marked. I still do.
The Canada geese's physical beauty and traits of gentleness and fidelity (geese pair for life) never ceases to amaze me -- as does the thought that some people consider them nuisances and try to find ways to kill them. Sure I understand that geese do what every living being does naturally -- leave droppings. I lived on Twin Island Lake in Pine Plains for a while and many geese families used to settle in my back yard. They left droppings -- obviously, which were easy enough to dispose of with a rake and a bucket, and the birds were oh so very gentle, sweet, and attentive to their goslings.
Wonder is precious
One morning on National Public Radio's "Living on Earth," I heard the announcer quote an unknown Bolivian man as saying, "Knowledge is worthless. Wonder is precious." Wonder is indeed precious and keeps a person youthful in spirit -- and I still feel wonder looking at these graceful creatures. I also think that knowledge has value. Knowledge can help save the geese from the abuses they so often suffer. Here are some ways to use knowledge -- either, if you choose, to rid your property of geese without harming them -- or, as a concerned person filled with wonder, to help general populations to survive. Remember that Canada geese are protected by state and federal law and cannot be injured, captured, or killed without a permit.
Six easy steps.
The best time to use deterrent techniques is in winter or early spring, before the geese chose a nesting site. For about two to three weeks in summer the birds molt their flying feathers so they cannot fly and they will hang out wherever they can, particularly near their nests.
1. Don't feed them so the geese won't get too used to people (because some people fear them or may want to harm them).
2. Fencing. There are many types of fences used to restrict the geese's access to water or grazing areas. Low fences can deter geese from feeding and loafing. Various materials can be used for fences -- including woven wire, chicken wire, corn cribbing, chain link, netting, mylar tape, monofilament line, stainless-steel wire, and 30-inch high or more wooden picket fences with openings no larger than 3 inches.
3. Scare devices. Several scare techniques are inexpensive and easy to use:
· Visual deterrents. Strobe lights that flash or rotate startle geese. Shiny and reflective Mylar tape also can be set as streamers on poles. Flags can be used to the same effect. Scarecrows and kites made to look like hawks or eagles are also good deterrents.
· Noise deterrents. Some people play recorded distress calls of Canada geese that can be purchased on the Internet or elsewhere. Others have used louder sounds (sirens, airhorns, whistles), which, incidentally might also deter your neighbors.
· Trained dogs. Border collies in particular have been used to herd geese away from grassy areas. I know this works because any time my gentle mixed-breed herding-type dog used to leave the house with me when I lived on Twin Island Lake, the geese in my yard would go into panic mode and fly away. Silhouette dog cut-outs can also be purchased and used instead of real dogs (see the end of the article for more information).
4. Landscape changes. Birds prefer large unobstructed lawns close to open water. If you change this habitat, geese will be denied access to one or both.
· Grassy areas. Geese like young, fine-bladed grass shoots (such as Kentucky bluegrass). Native grasses, ground cover, wildflowers, and low shrubs are less palatable to them and are good substitutes. If it is not possible to change the type of lawn, then reduce watering and fertilizer use, allowing the grass to grow taller.
· Shorelines. Geese like to rest or feed on grass near water. Altering the shoreline (possibly by adding shrubs or boulders) reduces the birds' view and impedes access from the water to feeding areas. Other options are to put in aquatic plants along the shoreline, but aquatic vegetation may attract other wildlife.
5) Chemical repellants. One chemical, methyl anthranilate -- available commercially as "Rejex-It" and "Turf Shield" -- is a non-toxic, biodegradable food ingredient that makes grass unpalatable to Canada geese. No permit is required for its use. These repellants, as for all of the five others listed here, should be use together if possible. Chemical repellants deter feeding, but not other activities such as "hanging out" or swimming, and must be reapplied after every rain.
6) Reproduction control. Techniques that are used to limit reproduction include removing nesting materials or using dummy eggs. Other less-humane methods (including shaking the eggs to destroy the embryo or oiling them to asphyxiate the embryo) require a permit from wildlife agencies.
Myself, I moved to the country to be closer to nature and I consider geese an amazing miracle. However I do understand that many people like to keep their lawns pristine and find geese annoying, and in the interests of harmony I offer these techniques. If you would like some help or more information contact Wildlife Watch at 845-255-4227 or [email protected], or visit www.wildwatch.org/ or www.canadageese.org . They can also help you find a qualified wildlife rehabilitator in your area if you find an injured bird and want help. To purchase silhouette dog cut-outs contact DOGGONE GEESE COMPANY" at 609-369-4431. Each dog runs about $70.00 or discounted
at 4 for $250.00.
From the Summer issue of AboutTown guide www.abouttownguide.com
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