Migratory vs. Non-migratory Canada Geese

Geese walking on water? No, they are walking on the frozen pond.Resident Canada geese are non-migrating geese; you will see them on your property year-round. The geese that stay in Cleveland, Akron and Toledo areas were never taught the migration patterns, nor will they teach following generations. Over the past 10 years, their populations increase about 1-5% per year, particularly in urban areas where there are few predators, prohibitions on hunting, and a dependable year-round supply of food and water.


Why do they stay?

During the first half of the 20th century, migratory geese were often captured for use as live decoys, and stayed in our area year-round. By the early 1960’s, the excessive hunting brought the population of Canada geese to near extinction. To counter this near extinction, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and many State wildlife agencies began a program of re-population of wild Canada geese. They did this by taking the eggs from the nests of the surviving resident Canada geese and artificially incubated these eggs while the geese laid another clutch (double clutch). These captive geese were also bred in captivity. As a consequence, their descendants do not have the biological need to migrate, they were not taught the migration patterns. Our resident Canada geese in Ohio are the descendants of these captive migratory geese.

Also, the climate is temperate in our area and the water bodies do not freeze for long periods of time, the resident Canada geese have no need to fly south to find open water and grass in the winter. Even when it is 10 degrees Fahrenheit, as long as the geese can find open water, they stay warm. The water is 32 degrees and the geese have down on their bellies and chest, which insulates them from the cold water.

Since we have ideal conditions, and the resident geese are trained to stay in our area, the problem will only increase. If geese are becoming a nuisance on your property during the winter months, please let us know. We are happy to set up a custom program to manage your Canada geese population.

Diseases that Canada Geese Carry

The flu hit our family hard this season, and it sparked a conversation in our household about what diseases Canada geese carry and if it is a health risk to our clients. After all, they do leave large quantities of feces everywhere. A single goose can defecate every 20 minutes up to 1.5 pounds each day. And it only gets worse when about 67% of these geese are non-migratory (resident geese), and their year-long presence does not give the land or lake any rest to rejuvenate. So when I see beaches and soccer fields littered with accumulated goose droppings, I wonder if we should allow our kids to play in the area and what information we should give our clients. So we did a little research to find out the truth.

Research has shown that the excrement of geese contains a wide variety of pathogens capable of infecting humans and that can also be transferred to the water and air quality. However, the transmission of disease or parasites from geese to humans has not been well documented. The parasites do exist, so the potential exists, and the higher number of geese the higher the potential. But since there are gaps in the research, we do caution that the presence of a disease does not necessarily translate into a threat to public health.





Parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungus that are present in Canada geese 

Parasites can cause diarrhea and infection, especially in individuals with compromised immune systems. Three parasites that are a concern to humans are cryptosporidium, giardia and toxoplasmosis.  Infection may occur through eating a goose that is undercooked or drinking contaminated water. Caution should be observed when swimming in any lake, pond or beach area that has a presence of geese.

The bacteria transferred from Canada geese that cause humans concern are chlamydiosis, e-coli, listeria, pasteurella multocida and salmonella. Infected birds can shed the bacteria through feces, nasal discharge and when someone is bitten. Humans normally manifest infection by pneumonia or through a wound.  The presence of e-coli correlates to the temperature, so there is a higher probability of e-coli presence during the month of June rather than February. Unless you are working around Canada geese or involved in feces clean up, the risk of infection can be low.

Canada geese are members of a group of birds that have been known to contract avian influenza. In 2004, researchers confirmed that Canada geese could contract H5N1, and it is an on-going concern that geese can introduce the disease.  There is on-going research to help validate these concerns.

Lastly, histoplasmosis fungus grows in soil enriched with bird droppings, including those from geese. When these contaminated soils are stirred up, the fungal spores can become dispersed and inhaled, thereby infecting individuals. Goose droppings have not been identified as a source for histoplasmosis, however, in light of the conflicting information, we suggest people practice caution when raking, mowing or stirring up soil enriched with goose droppings. It does not appear that goose droppings on sidewalks and other non-soil surfaces pose a risk.

How to proactively protect yourself from diseases that Canada geese carry

As a general rule, keeping a distance from geese and areas frequented by geese will always be the first line of defense in combating any diseases that geese can carry. Individuals with compromised immune systems should be extra cautious.

We suggest the following safety guidelines:

  • Wear protective gloves while working with feces or geese
  • Wash hands after working outdoors around geese
  • Launder work clothes
  • Shower after a day of working outdoors around geese
  • We wash our dogs paws daily at the end of every working day
  • We suggest washing bottoms of shoes at the end of every working day

Recommended Canada Geese Control Tactics

The best way to combat coming in contact with diseases carried by Canada geese is to proactively keep the geese away from areas that are used by people.  The first action is always to stop the public from feeding the geese. Secondly, the most effective, safe and humane tactic is by far the use of border collies. Find out more tactics here, or call Ohio Geese Control (877-91GEESE) for a free on-site demonstration and consultation on what you can be doing to lower your Canada geese population.

On-going Research Needed

Research has been proven that geese and their feces do carry diseases that are capable of infecting humans. But we must emphasize that the research is ongoing, and there are very few documented cases of the transmission of the diseases to humans. Nevertheless, the potential does exist, so we would urge you to practice safety measures when coming into contact with a high number of geese on your property. And check back with our blog as we provide updates.