Fly away Canada Goose

Stepping into Nature - Minden Riverwalk

Fly away Canada Goose

Minden, Ontario K0M 2A1, Canada

Created By: Haliburton County Master Gardeners


Did you know that the Canada Goose is not native to the Haliburton region? Even though you may see them at this point on our walking tour, historically their nesting grounds were limited to the Arctic tundra, to the Western Prairies and to the grasslands and wetlands of southwest Ontario. They were nearly extinct 100 years ago because of overhunting and the drainage of wetlands.

In intervening years, conservation efforts and government wildlife laws have re-established their numbers in the millions. Human settlement has also rapidly changed the once forested Ontario landscape to one of vast expanses of manicured grass, suburban sprawl and fields of corn and grain. With few predators and abundant food supply, exploding populations of Canada Geese have taken over habitats, displacing other species of birds, overgrazing and despoiling the land and water.

Geese leave large quantities of molted feathers and droppings - up to 2 kg per bird per day - which have health risks to humans and consequences for other species, land and water. Competition for feeding and nesting material can also spread diseases such as botulism, cholera, or avian flu among geese. The habitat in our region did not evolve to support such a large bird species with its populous brood and insatiable demand for food and space. The fragile ecosystem of the Canadian Shield is being negatively impacted by this honking, fearless creature.

What steps can we take?

Most animals are self-regulating and their population numbers will adjust to the habitat available. If you want to reduce the number of geese from the Highlands and restore species balance, you need to make your property unattractive to them.

The kindest and most effective way to do that is to change the landscape.

The geese you may see here are accessing the Minden Riverwalk from the grassy location at this tour stop near Bobcaygeon Road.

The goal in deterrence is to create a habitat not to their liking. They like to eat grass and they like wide open spaces so that they can keep an eye on any advancing predators. They are also suspicious of any shrubs that might provide cover for predators.

The first step is to plant a physical and visual barrier of shrubs along the water's edge. A cost effective solution here would be to use cuttings of Red Osier Dogwood (Cornus sericea) and Willow (Salix species) taken in the very early spring. Ten to twelve inch cuttings can simply be inserted into the ground to a depth of 6”/15 cm. The abundant rain and flooding of the riverbank will soon have them putting out roots.

For a year or so while your shrubs are maturing you’ll need a line with flags or flashing tape to prevent the geese from coming up out of the water onto your lawn. This barrier will only work for the 6 weeks, during July and August, when the geese are molting and lose their flight feathers preventing them from flying. During the rest of the year they will simply fly over any barrier.

The second step at this stage is to interrupt an expanse of grass with shrubs, trees and other plants, preferably native. A small grove of Pagoda Dogwood (Cornus alternifolia), a medium growing shrub with showy spring flowers and an open branch structure would be a good choice for this location. You could incorporate a sinuous path to the water. In this case, access to the river is not necessary.

It may take 2-3 years to fully vegetate this section to deter the geese. Geese like to return to the same nesting location year after year so you’ll have to be vigilant if you have nesting geese on your property.

The township of Minden made a conscious decision not to cut the grass down to the water’s edge. It took residents some time to adjust to the more natural look but everyone is rejoicing at the near elimination of the Canada Geese who were fouling the pathway and making it unpleasant for walking.

In brief, to deter the Canada Goose:

  1. Deprive geese of the grass that they like to eat and obscure their line of sight with plants.

  2. Design a narrow zig zag shaped walking path to the water.

  3. Reduce grass, mow less often and add native plants.

  4. Plant a continuous 30” high band of dense native plants along the shoreline 20-30 feet deep to reduce site lines and provide a barrier.

  5. Erect a temporary barrier of two rows of line or reflective scare tape until the vegetation fills in.

  6. Encourage aquatic plants such as bulrushes and cattails that work to deter geese.

  7. Plant trees and understory shrubs to obstruct their overhead line of sight.

Indiana State Park Service

This point of interest is part of the tour: Stepping into Nature - Minden Riverwalk


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