What's good for the (Canada) goose isn't really good for Denver

canada goose head scary.JPG
An adult goose releases approximately one pound of poop every single day. This fact stays relatively unnoticed until wintertime, when thousands of Canada geese -- seemingly overnight -- come out of the woodwork and waddle onto your property and into your parking spot. Why are there so many? The truth is that it's easy for geese to find reasons to stay. The two best are food and shelter, most easily provided by well-groomed private properties such as golf courses that ooze healthy grass (lunch) and small but tidy ponds (shelter).

And with few natural predators left in the Denver area, geese have taken to comfortable city spots rather than secluded forest hangouts. Today's geese, says goose wrangler Terry Hardey, are moving to the suburbs.

"When we design a golf course, it might as well be designed for the geese, and the same goes for almost any area with water and grass and without coyotes," says Hardey.

Since 2002, the sixty-year-old Hardey has owned and maintained T.A.R.P. Border Collies, a business devoted to humanely scaring geese off the property of a rotating series of clients. "The grass is level, and they can see if any threat is coming toward them, though there aren't many left. They've learned pretty easily that they can basically sidestep us whenever they want."

goose wikimedia.jpg
Wikimedia Commons
Add snow to this picture, and the sight is currently a common one in Denver's daily travels and rearview mirrors.

The Canada goose, with its easily distinguishable black-and-white face, is the most common and well-known contributor to the goose nation, but it is not the only one. And while other kinds of geese, such as the snow goose, migrate through Colorado and then farther south during the winter, many Canada geese -- a less sturdy, more lazy brand of geese -- were born here, raised here and have no reason to leave.

In most cases, geese attempt to hatch their own young in the same area where they were hatched, meaning that if they are allowed to grow up in Denver, they will also raise their young in Denver and add to the thousands of geese living here. "But the other half don't have a clue what Canada is, and they really don't care," Hardey says. "This time of year we see thousands, and it seems like they just fly in overnight. We are up to our eyeballs in them, and we're just getting more."

One of the largest factors contributing to the number of geese blocking your car at Whole Foods is the fact that, since 1918, the Canada geese and its friends have been protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. According to Hardey, the local resident goose population is growing at a rate of approximately 100 percent every five years, and those geese are growing smarter -- or at least more used to human antics -- at roughly the same pace.

"The East Coast's population far out-strips what we have here, and we look to them for ideas on how to handle these birds," she says. "It's becoming difficult as they become so city-wise and get used to all the doodads we put out to distract and scare them, like balloons and plastic swans and mesh fences. They get used to them and realize that it's moving, but it's not alive and is no threat."

hardey collie.jpg
Courtesy of T.A.R.P. Border Collies
Terry Hardey embraces one of her employees.
The most constant threat, then, are individuals like Hardey and her co-workers, three border collies in safety vests who are trained to scare the hell out of a goose without actually hurting it. Hardey drives between 80 and 100 miles a day ("I've had a lot of vehicles," she says) to seven different clients, where she unloads one or more of her carefully trained dogs and creates the lasting image of a natural predator in the goose's mind.

Hardey's dogs are expensive, in large part because of their training. When a goose is in sight, the dogs chase it and its friends until they get the message that there are safer areas to settle down in. Because geese have developed a knack for calling humanity's bluff, the exercise is a frequent one. Hardey and her border collies change their timing but return on a daily basis in order to firmly convince any area geese that this spot is not a safe one for them, their poop or their cranky nesting season.

"I would be concerned with little kids approaching them any time of the year because they can be very territorial, though their nesting season in February and March is the toughest," Hardey says. "Even outside of that tine, they can fly into somebody's face or knock somebody over. And their bites are very bruising, to the point where every year you see some article about some person being attacked by an angry goose."

In Colorado, other humane methods of goose control include addling the eggs, a process through which a trained representative covers new eggs in oil in order to prevent a gosling's continued growth into a goose. In the past, some cities have just moved large numbers of geese to others, but Hardey says many, including Colorado Springs and Grand Junction, will no longer allow this.

"It's not like they can be housebroken,'' she says. "Frankly, the financial burden is more than anyone can handle right now, and it gets to the point where we're just shoveling, if we're even doing that. But at a certain point, fixing and cleaning after them is actually more expensive than dealing with the birds."

More from our News archive: "Pit bull battle: Team Pit-A-Full creates an international petition in support of the breed."


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15 comments
Kevin Hurtack
Kevin Hurtack

Just put them all in a room full of laptops at WestWord, and publish what they come up with, wouldn't be any worse...

It's Jenn again...
It's Jenn again...

Every time I walk or drive by City Park I wonder if a couple of geese would be missed. I also think about sage stuffing and a nice Granny Smith apple chutney.

NottheNRA
NottheNRA

I think once a year Denver needs to lift the ban on discharging firearms within the city limits and allow the state's waterfowl hunters to conduct simple population control measures with 20-gauge shotguns.

Geese flocks get thinned, poop is decreased and people get fed. It's really a win-win-win situation.

Marion Ambler
Marion Ambler

"According to Hardey, the local resident goose population is growing at a rate of approximately 100 percent every five years,".....this only happens in apathetic communities that have no intelligent goose management plan.  In Vancouver, BC we have year round permanent resident Canada geese whose population has been managed humanely and kept stable with egg addling for 30 years.    

We also love the healthy population of Canada geese we have and I have never heard of a goose attack here or heard of a goose flying in anyone's face.  What rubbish!!  

"Canadas are big and tough, but THEY ARE NOT BULLIES AND ARE HAPPY TO LIVE AND LET LIVE  – although they can be ferocious in defence of their nests and, especially, their goslings as many a fox, dog, and raccoon has learned the hard way."....David Ankney, Professor Emeritus of Avian Ecology and Wildlife Management, University of Western Ontario.

Every day we hear of humans attacking and injuring or killing other humans, we hear of the bullying problems in schools, horrible cases of child abuse and animal cruelty.  I suspect the few people who we hear of getting attacked by a goose are those humans with a tendency to cruelty, bullying, and animal abuse.  A goose will only attack if its eggs or small goslings are threatened and they give a good warning with hissing and wing flapping...anyone 'attacked' by a goose is the aggressive arrogant bully.  Too bad these dog companies can't drum up business without villifing decent and honorable birds!!  Teach your children and/or community to have some compassion and respect for the creatures they share the planet with and guaranteed there would be no 'goose attacks'!! Here's a video that demonstrates what these VOICELESS birds have to endure from humans....http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

BTW...that photo of a goose at the top is a STOCK photo which I have seen on at least a dozen articles.... it's getting a bit boring.

Donotunderestimatethebirds
Donotunderestimatethebirds

"[G]eese have taken to comfortable city spots rather than secluded forest hangouts."Geese do not, and cannot, land in "forest hangouts". They land on open water and cleared areas of land.

Birdsarefeathereddinosaurs
Birdsarefeathereddinosaurs

While there are resident geese populations in Colorado, the vast majority are migrating from summer breeding grounds in the Arctic to wintering areas along the Gulf of Mexico. Harassing geese greatly stresses the animals and is illegal. Any worry of geese chasing children should be addressed to the parents who let their children near wild animals. These geese are strong enough to fend off coyotes and foxes, a child, or and adult even, should respect the strength and power of these animals and be in awe of the length of their migrations. Geese fly higher than commercial airliners and travel from above the Arctic Circle to the sub-tropics every year.

For reference please see the film: Winged Migration (2001). 

P.S. That one pound of "poop" is free fertilizer, and geese are accomplished lawn mowers. Just because we flush our feces away, do not discount the nutritive value of all that goose poop to the landscape.

KaDargo
KaDargo

Harassing the geese is animal abuse...cruelty to animals, a misdemeanor.  Killing one is aggravated cruelty to animals, a class 6 felony.  Just ask the 3 guys who were recently charged with felonies for killing a raccoon that was raiding their trash.

Be careful out there, you could easily find yourself in prison over a goose.  If it happens in Boulder, you will certainly be punished severely!

Kymmoyer
Kymmoyer

I mean come on people... get rid of the bears, the mtn lions, the coyotes, the prarie dogs...now the geese...how about get rid of all the texans & califonians...sounds MUCH better to me!

Kymmoyer
Kymmoyer

or.... all of the damn people can stop moving to CO and let the wild animals have their homes back!

Jessica
Jessica

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Patty Adjamine
Patty Adjamine

@ Robert Chase -- Don't be too quick to invite the swans.   I have personally seen swans and geese peacefully co-exist quite nicely.  Moreover, swans are bigger than geese and can be aggressive towards dogs and demanding of treats from people.  Swans also breed.  If you think some people are "upset" about the geese, imagine if you have many swans breeding there. Mute swans are already under attack from the USDA for being "too many."

Patty Adjamine
Patty Adjamine

I understand that it is important to demonize the geese as much as possible to drum up business, but truly, statements and insinuations that the geese are attacking little children or flying into people's faces is so blatently absurd and false, that it greatly detracts fron the credibility of goose "harassers" like Ms. Hardey.  Canada geese are among the peaceful and gentle creatures on the planet and they are extremely social, gregarious and trusting towards people and children.  Not to discount the value of trained Border Collies to chase geese in areas where the birds may be "loafing" too long, the tendency of goose harassment companies to lie, exaggerate and vilify the source of their income is deeply disturbing.  What else are they lying about, one has to wonder? 

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

Don't let them grow up in Denver!  Parks and Recreation should introduce swans citywide -- perhaps a small flock could be established and trained to patrol urban parks.

getrealbud
getrealbud

The American Way: shoot anything you don't understand. Or, are you just too lazy to sit in a stand out in the country?

Know why the geese (and many other migrating birds) come through Denver? The answer would be the South Platte River and the short jump to the Arkansas and Rio Grande Rivers that lead to the Gulf of Mexico and these birds' wintering grounds.

If you're that afraid of shit, how do you stand to wipe your ass every morning?

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

I was mostly being facetious -- if we could trade the legions of Canadian geese for fewer swans it would be an improvement, or at least add variety to the urban birdscape.

One good thing about all our squirrels and pigeons is that I very occasionally see Peregrine Falcons in Capitol Hill, like the one I noticed dismembering a squirrel in the tree outside my window last Spring.

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