Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
Classification: Game Species
Abundance: Common throughout state


(Photo: Mark Buckler)

Species Profile (pdf)

Coexisting With Canada Geese (pdf)

          
 

With its characteristic “honk”, widespread breeding distribution and ability to adapt to suburban environments, the Canada goose is likely the most recognized waterfowl species in North Carolina. Although similar in appearance, Canada geese can be divided into 11 subspecies partially based on body size, subtle differences in coloration and breeding distribution. Although most sub-species or populations are migratory in nature, populations of non-migratory Canada geese have been increasing in North Carolina and elsewhere over the last 20 years.

Adult Canada geese found in North Carolina typically average about 10 pounds and between  2 ½ and 3 feet in length. Males, also called ganders, are larger than females. Although the various subspecies differ in some ways, all have similar characteristics: a black bill, black legs and black feet; black head and neck, with a white cheek patch that usually covers the throat; back, wings, sides and breast are various shades of gray and brown; white belly, flank and undertail coverts. Black tail and rump are separated by a white V-bar formed by the white uppertail coverts. Canada geese are easily distinguished by their “honking” call and appropriately nicknamed “honkers” by many people.

To learn more about the Canada Goose, view the species profile and click on the other tabs on this page.

 

Species

2019-20
Season
Dates

2019-20
Regulations

 

Additional Information

Waterfowl - General

(includes ducks, geese, swans and youth waterfowl days)
Seasons / Limits

Youth Waterfowl Day(s)

Extended Falconry Seasons
 
Migratory Game Bird Regulations

 
Additional Info (including license requirements, non-toxic shot requirements, baiting information and various reports)
Canada Goose Seasons / Limits

 

Migratory Birds Regulations
 

NE Goose Hunt Zone Permits (PDF)

Additional Info (including license requirements, non-toxic shot requirements, baiting information and various reports)
 Light Goose Seasons / Limits Migratory Game Bird Regulations
 
 Light Goose Conservation Season Permit Information
Tundra Swan
 
Seasons / Limits
 
Migratory Game Bird Regulations
 
Tundra Swan Permit information (PDF)

Additional Info (including license requirements, non-toxic shot requirements, baiting information and various reports)

Canada geese are classified as migratory birds under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. As such, they are protected by federal law and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Migratory Canada goose populations have dwindled from historic numbers, while resident Canada geese (geese that nest or reside in the lower 48 states during April – August), have thrived in recent decades. Rather than natural wetlands, these largely non-migratory birds often make their home in cities and suburbs and can be very tolerant of humans. Resident Canada geese can be found in places like parks, golf courses, and parking lots, and sometimes come in conflict with their human neighbors.


Why Am I Seeing Canada Geese In My Yard?

Ponds surrounded by a manicured lawn provide ideal habitat for Canada geese. For these large waterfowl, walking access to water means safety from predators, and a mowed lawn provides an unlimited, convenient food source. Parks and neighborhoods unintentionally attract Canada geese by supplying the following resources:

  • Walking access to open water – geese will retreat to water when they feel threatened but prefer to walk rather than fly short distances
  • Wide open space – gives geese a sense of security that they can see potential threats from a distance
  • Short vegetation – mowed lawn and other vegetation shorter than 6” is easy for geese to walk on and see over
  • Lack of predators or other potential threats
  • New plant growth – mowed lawn is constantly growing, providing tender shoots that are a preferred food for Canada geese
  • Intentional feeding by well-meaning people

 

Managing Conflicts With Canada Geese

When it comes to managing conflicts with Canada geese, strategies can have varying levels of success depending on the time of year and how long the birds have been in the area. Click here to see which management strategies are recommended based on the time of year.

  • Hazing is a legal, humane option that doesn’t require any permits. When employed correctly and persistently, hazing can become one of the most effective management techniques that prevent geese from establishing themselves on someone’s property. The goal of hazing is to scare or harass geese away from the property in a way that does not make physical contact with the birds. Repeated, consistent hazing can cause geese to avoid an area, even if that area is otherwise attractive to them. See the following for examples of effective hazing strategies:
     
    • Make loud noises like yelling, clapping your hands, or blowing an air horn while chasing geese away.
    • Hire a company that uses professionally trained dogs to haze geese. Herding dogs are talented goose chasers because their instinct is not to touch or injure their quarry, but to frighten them to move on elsewhere. Many goose control professionals employ herding breeds such as Australian shepherds or border collies to chase unwelcome geese away from their clients’ properties.
    • Predator decoys (pictured on right) can work for a time until geese learn they’re not a real threat. Decoys that move in the wind, or are moved to new locations periodically, are usually more effective than stationary ones. Pairing decoys with active hazing can be even more effective.
    • Toys such as remote-control boats can be used to chase geese out of the water. A goose that is deprived of its safety zone (the water) and is regularly forced to fly away will likely find somewhere else to spend its time.
  • Installing barriers such as short fencing or planting vegetation around shorelines can make areas unattractive to geese by removing walking access from water to feeding or resting locations. Click here to see examples of effective barrier fencing.
  • Chemical repellants are available which deter geese from grazing on vegetation where they are applied. These products contain either methyl anthranilate or anthraquinone. Anthraquinone gives the geese stomach discomfort when they ingest the grass and methyl anthranilate, found naturally in grapes, acts as a taste deterrent. Disadvantages of chemical repellents include high cost and the need to reapply them frequently. Because of this, repellents are most practical for small areas. Some repellents may be classified as “Restricted Use” and must be applied by a certified pesticide applicator. For more information on restricted pesticides, contact the NC Department of Agriculture, Pesticide Division at 919-733-3556.
  • Nest and egg destruction can be an effective method for reducing the local population of Canada geese over time by limiting reproductive success. In cases where an aggressive nesting goose is the problem, destroying the nest can provide an immediate solution. Federal depredation order 50 CRF 21.50 allows landowners to destroy resident Canada goose nests if certain criteria are met. If no eggs are present, the nest can be destroyed at any time, but if any eggs are present, a free federal permit (which can be obtained here ) is required to destroy the nest and eggs. Often, oiling or addling eggs and leaving them in the nest is the preferred option, as it entices the female to continue incubating rather than laying another clutch. All individuals must be registered prior to destroying any nests or eggs, and all nests and eggs that are destroyed must be reported by October 31st.

Targeted Removal Of Canada Geese

  • Where appropriate, hunting is a highly effective deterrent as the flock quickly learns that the area is not safe. Geese may avoid an area for weeks after hunting is initiated. Hunting is subject to federal frameworks, landowner permission, and local ordinances. Check the NC regulations guide for current Canada goose hunting regulations by looking under “Migratory Game Bird Seasons and Regulations.”
  • If geese are causing damage to agricultural crops you can reach out to your local district biologist between May 1st and August 31st to acquire a depredation permit for removing geese outside of hunting season. Depredation cases related to agricultural/crop damage do not require an additional federal permit during this time period.
  • In situations where hunting is not possible and crop damage is not involved, if landowners can demonstrate that non-lethal control methods have proven to be ineffective, there is direct economic loss from the presence of Canada geese, or there is a direct threat to human health and/or safety, lethal removal of geese may still be an available option. In these instances, property owners must acquire both a state and federal permit allowing lethal take. USDA Wildlife Services works directly with landowners to resolve conflicts with Canada geese and can be contacted at 1-866-487-3297 to help facilitate the federal permitting process through USFWS. Please contact your local district biologist to attain the required state depredation permit that allows the take of problem geese.
  • Because relocating Canada geese is not a practical or effective method of controlling problems associated with their presence, the WRC does not allow relocation of problem geese. If successful, relocation moves the problem onto someone else’s property, but more commonly the geese will simply return as long as the area remains attractive to them.

Canada Goose Health Concerns

  • Only individuals who possess a state and federal waterfowl rehabilitator license can take in and provide care for injured Canada geese. Always contact a licensed rehabilitator first to make sure they are accepting animals before attempting to capture or help injured wildlife. Find contact information for current rehabilitators here.
  • Geese occasionally get tangled in old fishing line. If a tangled goose can be captured quickly and safely, any person may cut off the line and immediately release the bird at the site of capture. Geese that can easily evade capture are best left alone as attempts to chase and capture them often lead to undue stress and potential further injury. If the bird has fresh injuries, contact a licensed waterfowl rehabilitator.
  • Geese with old, healed injuries (more than a week old) are capable of surviving on their own and do not benefit from human assistance. Even geese that can no longer fly can survive to old age in the wild and are best left alone.
  • Canada geese and other waterfowl can suffer from a condition called “angel wing” (pictured on the right). The condition is caused by nutrient deficiency from eating too little natural vegetation and too much human-supplied food as the bird’s bones were developing. Once the bones are finished growing, the condition is permanent and the bird is incapable of flight. Bread products are much like candy to geese; they will readily consume such handouts when offered. However, these ‘junk foods’ provide little nutritional value. A goose’s natural diet consists mostly of green vegetation such as grass and other low-growing plants which are readily available on the landscape. Despite the common perception that geese are hungry because they eagerly eat food handouts, they do not need or benefit by foods provided by people.

Please report all bands online at  www.reportband.gov

Please be aware that starting July, 2017, the toll-free telephone number that had previously been available to report bird bands is being discontinued.  This discontinuation is collectively due to past problems with accurate data recording, high rates of dropped calls and budget cuts.  People calling this toll-free number will be directed to report their bird bands using the REPORTBAND website or by mail.  We rely heavily on your cooperation in reporting banded birds to help in their management, and we would like to thank you for your continued support in this effort.