Utah's Goose Problem
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking the public's ideas about how to manage increasing numbers of Canada geese that are finding Utah's golf courses, sod farms and other urban and suburban areas inviting places to visit.

While many people thrill to see Canada geese in urban and suburban settings, the geese themselves are causing problems.

In parks and other open areas near water, Canada geese are denuding lawns of vegetation and creating conflicts with their droppings and feather litter. Goose droppings in heavy concentrations can overfertilize lawns and can contribute to excessive algae growth in lakes that may result in fish kills and contamination of municipal water supplies.

Geese also have been involved in a growing number of aircraft strikes at airports across the country, resulting in dangerous takeoff and landing conditions and costly repairs.

Canada geese are drawn to these areas because they consist of ideal goose habitat — park-like open areas with short grass adjacent to small bodies of water.

Tom Aldrich, waterfowl coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources, says Utah is experiencing increasing problems with Canada geese as development has brought golf courses, sod farms and other enticing areas closer to wetland areas where geese live.

He also said that Canada goose populations are increasing in the western United States and geese have learned that many urban and suburban areas are good places to escape hunting pressure in the fall.

Preventing geese from visiting areas such as golf courses has been challenging. Chemical treatments of golf course lawns, for example, are very expensive, Aldrich said.

Hunting on golf courses also has proven largely ineffective because it takes place close to buildings and many people find the hunting of geese on golf courses unacceptable, Aldrich said.

Noise devices to keep geese off golf courses also have largely failed because they disturb golfers and people living near the golf courses.

Aldrich said there has been some success with training dogs to chase away geese that land on golf courses, but these dogs cost thousands of dollars to buy and train.

The options the Service is proposing range from doing nothing to treating Canada geese involved in these situations like pest species. In between those extremes are options that include managing habitat to make it less attractive to geese; harassment, trapping and relocation of birds; and more direct population stabilization and reduction programs.

It is the options at the far end of the scale that concern Aldrich the most. "If it went to the one extreme, it could have a very negative effect on our local, breeding birds," Aldrich said. "If you allow someone to go out and kill every goose that is believed to be causing a problem, you're eventually going to dramatically impact our local breeding populations."

Aldrich said that type of management option will probably not be supported by states west of the Rocky Mountains, which in part make up what is called the Pacific Flyway.

"I doubt any of the states in this flyway will support an option that doesn't have a very controlled and focused process that dictates when and where you can use various removal methods, and under what circumstances," Aldrich said.

Aldrich said this issue is an important one because Utah's goose populations are not only important to Utah residents, but are appreciated by people in adjacent states where Utah-reared geese often spend the winter.

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