Canada Goose

Photo: Mark Buckler

(Enlarge image)

Scientific Name: Branta canadensis

Classification: Game Species

Abundance: Common throughout state


Species Profile (pdf)

Coexisting With Canada Geese (pdf)



Canada Geese (Photo: Mark Buckler)


Additional Information

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 upper-tail coverts. Canada geese are easily distinguished by their “honking” call and appropriately nicknamed “honkers” by many people.

Learn more by reading the Canada Goose species profile.


Migratory Game Bird Regulations

Goose Zone Maps

NE Goose Hunt Zone Permits (PDF)

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

Youth Waterfowl Days

Veterans/Military Waterfowl Day(s)

Permit Hunting Opportunities


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

  • Who can help? Only licensed wildlife rehabilitators with both state and federal permits may take in and care for sick or injured Canada geese. Always get a professional rehabilitator’s advice first before attempting to capture or care for injured wildlife.
  • Nest in danger? Canada geese readily nest away from water in places like large parking lots, roofs of buildings, and landscaped garden beds. Even though these seem like poor locations for a nest, Canada geese are very successful parents and always have a plan for leading their goslings to safety once the eggs have hatched. Relocating a bird nest usually causes egg abandonment and is illegal for this reason. The best way to help is to do nothing.
  • Fishing line is a hazard to most aquatic wildlife. If a tangled goose can be captured easily and quickly, 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 chasing them causes stress and potential further injury. If the bird has fresh injuries, contact a licensed waterfowl rehabilitator.
  • Old, healed injuries show that a goose has been able to survive and adapt, even if it has lost the use of a wing or leg. Canada geese can live for many years with such healed injuries and do not need human assistance.
  • Wing deformities such as “angel wing” (pictured on the right) are caused by malnutrition from eating too little natural vegetation and too much human-supplied food as a young goose is developing. Once the wing bones are finished growing, the condition is permanent and the bird is incapable of flight. Geese readily consume food handouts such as bread or crackers, but these “junk foods” provide little nutritional value. A goose’s natural diet consists mostly of green vegetation such as grass. Avoid providing any food to geese as this can lead to overcrowding, pollution and disease, among other issues.



Hunter Harvest Survey Estimates


2016-2020 Canada Goose Hunting and Harvest Estimate Maps

1949-2019 Canada Goose Harvest and Hunter Trends (PDF)


Movements and Arrival Dates


Bird Band Reporting

Please report all bands online at

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.