Canada geese have grayish-brown wings and backs with light gray sides and breasts. Their heads, tails, legs, feet, and bills are black, and they have a distinctive white patch on the cheek that may cover part of the throat. Depending on the subspecies, they may weigh 3-15 pounds. In Alabama, we have a resident subspecies that weighs from 15-20 pounds. We also see smaller migrant Canada geese that come to this area for the winter.
Resident Canada geese stay in Alabama year round and can be found in many urban and suburban areas around ponds and lakes. Their populations have grown to a point where they have become a nuisance species in public parks, golf courses, water retention ponds, and on private property. Wherever open fields meet water’s edge in Alabama, you may find resident geese.
In small numbers, the geese present no real problems for land owners; however, large populations can negatively impact water quality in streams and ponds, cause significant damage to agricultural fields, and possibly present a danger to small children, pets, and other avian populations. Large deposits of goose droppings release excessive amounts of nitrogen into the soil. As nitrogen washes into the water supply, algae feeds on it and grows out of control. Large flocks may also compact the soil at a pond’s edge such that grasses and other vegetation can no longer grow. Resident geese feeding on nearby agricultural fields can cause serious losses for farmers.
High concentrations of geese can present health and safety problems for people and other animals. Large flocks of resident geese present a risk of transmission of diseases such avian influenza, schistosomes, and avian cholera to other water fowl. They can possibly transmit salmonella, but not coccidiosis to cattle. They have not been known to transmit disease to humans, but they are very aggressive in protecting nest sites and may attack pets or children that inadvertently wander into their territory.
Geese are much sought after game items, but in public parks and golf courses, hunting is out of the question. On your private property, shooting the geese may be your best option for population control, but be sure to time your efforts in accordance with local hunting regulations. Hunting season for geese usually begins in September and bag limits vary. If you have a growing goose problem on your property, you may need to apply for a permit called "egg and nest registration" that allows you to "addle" goose eggs in their nests. Shaking the eggs or coating them with oil will kill the growing embryo inside the shell. Large scale control problems may be addressed with contraceptive bait or bio-control. In urban areas, the use of border collies to disrupt and harass goose colonies has been very successful.