Geese are pooping machines – but we still can’t shoot them

canada-geeseAn adult goose poops 8 times a day, depositing ½ to 1 pound of droppings, leaving a disgusting unhealthy mess. If you are plagued by a group of geese, you know what I’m saying. In a week, they can leave an astonishing amount of poop on your lawn.

As I read in a recent flyer titled Don’t Feed the Geese, “Goose droppings are slippery, unsanitary and unsightly. They harbor parasites that may cause human health problems, and they increase algae growth that, in turn, causes fish kills.” Yikes! Fish kills!

Geese may be Maine’s secret weapon to get homeowners to rip out their shoreside lawns to protect the quality of our lakes. Because ripping up your lawn is pretty much the first thing you will be required to do, if you want to get rid of the geese.

I recently attended a fascinating and informative event, titled Coexisting with Canada Geese, at the Cary Memorial Library in Wayne. Panelists included Kendall Marden and Kelsey Sullivan, wildlife biologists with Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Ben Nugent, a USDA Wildlife Services Biologist, Dave Struck, a landscaper, Lidie Robbins of the 30 Mile River Assocciation, and others. Moderator Anne Huntington noted, “From my perspective, it is really important to address the potential problems BEFORE the (goose) population grows to nuisance levels. Community involvement and communication are really vital… Any effort to control population and/or nuisance issues really has to address public opinion and education first.”

Anne focused a lot of her presentation on those who foolishly feed geese. “Sometimes when people realize that feeding geese is really detrimental to the geese, they will stop, but it is a hard habit to break.” Indeed. “The most accurate sound bite I’ve seen regarding goose management is: ‘Response must be planned, consistent, persistent, and utilize multiple techniques including habitat modification to have any lasting effect.”

Yes, they are talking about ripping out your lawn and planting shrubs that will discourage geese from coming ashore. Landscaper Dave Struck said this is a growing part of his business which offers $30 shrubs planted a foot apart. That’s $3,000 to keep geese off 100 feet of your property.

Resident Geese

Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife brought geese here beginning in the 1960s to recreate a resident population for hunters. At that time, we only had geese to hunt that were migrating through Maine in the fall. But DIF&W did too good a job. Now we are overrun with resident geese, and few hunters pursue them in the special September season when the bag limit is an astonishing ten geese a day in two zones, and 8 in the third zone.

Last year the folks in Oakland got into an uproar because DIF&W and USF&W captured a bunch of geese messing up the town beach – and killed them all. Some folks thought the geese would be relocated, but there is no place in Maine that wants more geese.

Resident goose populations in Maine increase 16 percent each year. So if this is not a problem in your area yet, stand by!

Shoot Them

We have a goose problem up at Camp Phoenix on Sourdnahunk Lake, just outside the northwest corner of Baxter State Park, and I have been assigned the task of getting rid of the geese. My chosen solution was a shotgun, so I was very disappointed to hear the USDA biologist, Ben Nugent, say that I can’t shoot the geese until I get a depredation permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and they would require us to take many other steps before giving us a chance to shoot the nuisance geese. “It takes years before we give permission to shoot them,” said Ben, in response to one of my questions.

It doesn’t seem reasonable to me that we force people to spend lots of money, and transform their property, to save geese for hunters who will be able to shoot 10 a day later in the year. Does that make sense to you? Is that really fair to property owners who are plagued by geese, and whose health is threatened by goose poop?

Solution for Camp Phoenix

Anne Huntington suggested a solution for those of us who own camps at Camp Phoenix. “Perhaps you could have your annual Labor Day weekend condominium meeting and include a community cooking event. The resident goose season starts September 1. Google “Canada Goose Recipes.” There are a lot of them and some look pretty interesting. Aging is suggested and cooking breast meat rare keeps it moist… You can work on fencing/buffering the access areas at the same time.” Anne also suggested letting the grass grow longer, and said, “Don’t discount coyotes in your neck of the woods.” In my experience, the coyotes at Camp Phoenix are doing a whole lot better with rabbits than with geese.

Anne sent me a list of resources and information available for those of us who have goose problems, and I will attach it to this column if you are on that list. I noted at the forum that most of the repellents that can be sprayed around the yard to deter geese are not legal in Maine. And those that are legal can’t be used within 25 feet of the water.

As we went through the list of techniques to discourage geese, I noted that none of them work for long, even fencing which geese go around or over. You can harass them, but they actually get used to it. Strobe lights, alarms, distress calls, propane canisters on timers, coyote decoys – nothing works – except the shotgun. And oh yea, ripping up the lawn and planting $30 shrubs. Shotgun shells are a lot less expensive.

But then I remembered what Ken Martin, a Wayne resident, said at the forum. He is battling a goose problem at the local Yacht Club. Geese are all over the property, including the dock. He goes over at all hours to drive them off. And the Club has no lawn! So the suggestion that we just stop mowing our lawns, described as the best and easiest approach, may not solve our problem. It would, of course, be good for the quality of the water.

Ben Nugent did tell me that if we shot one or two geese, and utilized other non-lethal techniques, we’d get rid of them. “You don’t usually have to shoot more than that,” he said. I left the event with that firmly in my mind.

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website,, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. Islandport Press published a book of George's favorite columns, "A Life Lived Outdoors" in 2014. In 2014, George also won a Maine Press Association award for writing the state's bet sports blog. In 2016, Down East Books published George's book, Maine Sporting Camps, and Islandport Press published George and his wife Linda's travel book, Take It From ME, about their favorite Maine inns and restaurants.