Many who live in the Lynnhaven Watershed are all too familiar with the Canada goose. Waterfront homeowners have tried just about everything to keep them off of their lawn from string fences to fake alligators to pellet guns. Many of these attempts, unfortunately, fall short of removing these persistent birds from properties. So, try these new strategies that speak to the geese in their own instinctive language- predator versus prey:
Change their habitat
Like the look of a manicured yard, rather than tall grasses? Replace lawn with planted beds.Geese are instinctively wary of tall grasses, brush, and forested areas where predators may be lurking. Talk to your neighbors who have marsh grasses growing along their shoreline and lots of shrubs and trees growing in their yards. They will tell you they see far fewer geese on their property than those with manicured lawns. Geese not only steer clear of shrubbery, but they seek out your lawn because they like to eat the tender, young grass shoots. Let the grasses within about 5 feet or more of your shoreline grow to a foot or more high. Geese view this as a barrier and won’t walk through it from the water. These grasses also create a buffer that keeps fertilizer and loose soil from flowing off of your yard and into the river during storm events. If the geese attempt to fly over your tall grasses, they will be even more deterred to stay on your property if shrubs and trees are planted throughout. A yard full of tall grasses, shrubs and trees signals to geese that it could be full of predators and lacking yummy grass shoots. They’ll fly away to find a nice, short, safe lawn full of food at your neighbor’s house.
If you aren’t so keen on the idea of unmowed grass, plant a marsh garden in areas that get flooded in storm events or at high tides. See our list of suggested “high marsh” plants in our Tidal Wetland Restoration Guide at http://www.lynnhavenrivernow.org/files/pages/Wetlands%20Pub%20for%20Website.pdf
On properties with riprap or bulkheads, plant a buffer garden at the edge of your shoreline. Many native shrubs and other plants can be planted in a beautiful mulched bed along your shoreline to keep geese out and pollutants like fertilizer and loose soil in.
Search the Native Plants Database by state at http://www.wildflower.org/plants/ to find native plants that are best for your yard. Buffer gardens can also be planted upland of a marsh garden on natural shorelines.
Feeding geese bread crumbs while you’re at Mount Trashmore might seem like something fun to do with the kids, but you are just telling the geese you want them to stick around and teaching your kids how to pollute the river. Like most animals, geese will always come back for a free meal! Why migrate south for the winter when they can just go to Lake Trashmore for bread? The University of California-Davis estimated one goose produces an average of about 5 pounds of poop per day, which contains a lot of bacteria, most of which is E. coli. When it rains, where does all that E. coli go? That’s right, into the river. So, remember- what goes in must come out! The less bread we feed the geese, the cleaner the river will be. Don’t feed the geese.
Buffer garden on Lyon property on the Lynnhaven River
Humanely harass them.
Motion-activated sprinklers are another high-tech strategy that could startle grazing geese. In combination with some well-placed predatory landscaping, this method could frighten geese enough to send them packing.If all else fails by altering their habitat and our habits, you can try a few more scare tactics that may rattle their gaggles. A quick internet search for special lasers and light-emitting devices used to scare geese will produce a line-up of lights that supposedly scare off geese settling down for the night if used properly at dusk. But, if you live near a sandy beach, please don’t use this tactic as it could create a dangerously confusing situation for baby sea turtles seeking the light of the moon to steer them towards the sea.
A myriad of chemical solutions are also recommended by various online sources, but we would advise against using these chemicals. Whatever you put on your lawn flows right into either a storm drain or your shoreline, both of which lead directly to the river. No one wants weird chemicals in their water.
All of these tactics can be useful, especially if combined and if done repeatedly. Remember, you are essentially training the geese to view your yard as unsafe and uncomfortable. Since they don’t speak English, we can only do our best to speak to them in their natural language. Take away their food and a safe habitat and your resident geese should decide to fly the coop!