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Ducks & Geese

There is a goose sitting in a parking lot and it will not walk or fly away.  (Possibly injured)

From March through May this is our most common call into the hotline concerning waterfowl.  Most callers say that the goose is injured, or sick, because why else would a goose sit there and let you approach it so closely?  Why else would a goose sit in a traffic lane in a busy parking lot and not MOVE when cars come by?  This goose is most likely the male of a pair of nesting geese that are waiting on babies to hatch.  Male geese do not stand right next to Mom and the nest.  They tend to wander quite a distance away and just sit around staring at people.   Males defend their nest vigorously while the mate incubates eggs. In order to avoid attracting predators the father sits away from the nest but close enough he can hear the emergency call of the female.  Sometimes the male is angry and will hiss at you, hold his wings out and yell at you.  A lot of times though, the male does nothing – literally, nothing.  He sits, or stands in some conspicuous place in an empty lot and just waits.  Drive around the parking lot, behind the businesses, and look for the female.  She’s there – somewhere.  Geese in cities tend to like nesting in the little green patch of grass or shrubbery that businesses decorate their parking lots or strip malls with.  It’s a tiny little area, and it’s in the middle of a busy parking lot, but that’s w
here she picks and there’s not much we can do about it.  Canadian Geese are federally protected and we cannot destroy their eggs, move the eggs (not that they’d let you anyway!) or ‘relocate’ the geese.  They sit on their eggs for about 30 days and then the goslings and the geese will move on.  Unless you SEE a physical injury on the goose in the lot, he probably isn’t injured at all.  He’s just waiting on those kids to hatch.  We ask that you approach the goose slowly before calling us, if he stands up using both legs and doesn’t have a wing dragging he is fine. If you do not see an obvious injury, that’s a good thing.  We’d like the family to stay together!

We found a VISIBLY injured duck or goose. What should we do?

If a wild duck, goose, duckling or gosling is in immediate danger, you may carefully and humanely capture it and arrange for its immediate transfer to a licensed wildlife rehabber. Herein lies the problem.  There are ZERO organizations that will COME OUT and go on a ‘wild goose chase’ to bring this duck or goose into a rehab center.  We are all volunteers, using our own gas money, our own time, and our own resources.  If we drove out to every site where someone reported a injured duck or goose, we would never see our families, and we would all go broke.  If a duck or goose is STUCK in a fence, or something else and CANNOT get away, we may be able to get someone to come out.  Just because this bird is lying there calmly when you are looking at it, does not mean that it will still be there when we arrive.  If the bird can WALK, FLY, OR SWIM – We don’t stand a chance in catching it.  We’re very sorry but we have to ask that the public contain these birds and get them to a rehabber.  We just do not have the staff to ‘rescue’ them the way that we can with some other species.  No matter how good we are at what we do, ducks and geese fly, and we cannot.

Do not feed injured or abandoned wild waterfowl until you have received advice from a rehabber. To find your local rehab center, contact the Hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP.  Place the duck into a protective container (preferably a pet carrier if you have one on hand). Line it with an old dry towel free of any loose strings that might be ingested or cause tangles. Make a small water source available–nothing that can spill and make a big mess. You want your temporary guest to be warm and cozy, but not hot–remember an adult duck’s feathers are excellent insulators. Ducklings should be kept warm and draft free. Avoid using newspapers for bedding; they can remove the oil from a duck’s feathers. You can use hay or pine shavings, but avoid cedar shavings as they can irritate their skin.

Try not to disturb the duck/goose. Let it rest quietly in a safe and closed off room until you can arrange for it to be delivered to a rehabber. Be extremely cautious that neither children or family pets have access to the duck.

I found a baby duck (duckling) or goose (gosling), all alone.  How can i help him?

If you found a small duckling or gosling that still has down and cant locate the mother please call the Wildlife Hotline immediately so we can assist you. Please note it is against state and federal law for you to keep a bird and try and raise it yourself.

If the bird is not in immediate danger, but you are concerned about it, contact a wildlife rehabber for advice BEFORE intervening. Don’t assume that ducklings or eggs have been abandoned just because you do not see their mother nearby. Avoid the temptation of disturbing a nest until after you’ve discussed the situation with a licensed rehabber.  We know how darling those little ducklings/goslings are, but you must keep their best interests in mind, and set your own desires aside. Wild ducklings need to be taught to forage for natural foods and they need to learn to exercise their wings and learn to fly. It is vital that wild ducklings do not imprint on humans.  If a wild duckling imprints on a human rather than a duck, they won’t fare as well in the wild. They may not act appropriately around other ducks and become outcasts, or they may seek out humans once released, which could prove harmful. Remember, just because you mean well, doesn’t mean the next person they encounter will. A licensed rehabber has the training to take care of wild ducklings and ensure that they can be released safely back into the environment.

If you have found an adult goose somewhere by itself it may *seem* alone. Normally there is a mate hidden nearby on a nest.

Occasionally you will find a lone goose near the road, sometimes this can mean his mate has been hit or killed. If they are grieving for the loss of a loved one they often isolate themselves. Forcing them to be around other geese isn’t helpful for them. Just like us we need to work through trauma or grief in our own individual ways. You often see humans returning to the side of the road where a loved one lost their lives and geese do the same thing. There are reasons why they do this, we may not understand them but we must accept them. If the dead body is still there we do advise you to remove the carcass as this usually speeds up them leaving the area.

My neighborhood has way too many geese and they are ruining my yard.

Canadian geese are extremely common in the Midwest during every season.  We tend to have more in the area in winter, but it is not uncommon for geese to live here in Missouri & Illinois all year round when the habitat and food source will support them.  Sometimes geese and ducks are found together, especially in a public lake or pond where tourists and passerby feed them on a regular basis.  Bread and crackers seem to always be the food of choice that people like to give to the geese and ducks, but it is actually really awful for them nutritionally, plus the feeding of these animals disrupts the natural balance of population control.  Due to humans feeding them, one area may end up with a huge population of geese/ducks when otherwise the population would have never grown so large with only natural food sources available.

So you have a zillion geese in your neighborhood, yard, pond, lake, etc.?  There are multiple humane products available that work well as deterrents for geese.  Which one you choose depends on what type of problem you are experiencing.

If you have geese in your yard, pecking at your grass during the day there are multiple liquid-spray products that can assist you in deterring the geese from being in your yard.  One company that makes these chemicals is called “Rejexit“.  They make a very effective product called Migration that can be applied to your yard to make your grass taste terrible to the geese and force them to move to a new area.  Remember though, them moving to a new area might be right next door or across the street.  It’s not necessarily going to make the geese leave town, just leave your yard.  Neighborhoods, Subdivisions, or public parks can contact Tru-Green lawn care solutions here in Missouri to have a product similar to this applied on a large scale to deter the geese.  Rejexit also makes a fog product, powder deterrent, and natural botanicals to deter waterfowl.  Visit their site for more information at www.rejexit.com.  Another similar product is called Flight Control Plus, and available locally to purchase at John Deere stores.  Contact your local store to check that it is in stock.  These products are not cheap though, and you might want to try some less expensive deterrents before investing that much money.

If your goose problem is confined to a body of water, such as a lake or pond, you’ll have to take a different approach.  There are options that block the geese from the water’s shore, making it so that they cannot walk into the water and they are reportedly, very effective.  Geese don’t like to fly into water if they can help it, and would much rather walk in, so when you block the access to the shore they tend to move on.  We have discovered that fencing and wires creates more problems than it resolved. Waterfowl ends up injured and sometimes stuck in the wires and fencing, and it isn’t at all a humane way to handle the issue. Just like the fencing option though, you can landscape your way into less geese as well, with the same results.  Try bordering your lake or pond with large boulders every four-six feet, blocking clear access to the shoreline.  All of these ideas require some work, but they will offer the greatest reward in the long term. The best option that we have experienced is to employ the services of two swans. Apparently, geese don’t like swans. For businesses with ornamental ponds or lakes, this has become a great option to keep the goose invasion away.

Another option is a brightly lit, solar powered, visual stimuli light that prevents geese from getting a good night’s sleep.  These lights are made to be floated out into a body of water, or installed on land, right at eye level of the goose.  It’s barely noticeable to humans, but is extremely annoying for the geese.  After one or two nights of not getting any shut-eye, the geese are sure to look for a more hospitable lake to sleep in!  “Away With Geese” makes these lights, as well as other companies out there.  We have heard nothing but good things about these lights.  They actually work!

Lower-Cost Geese Deterrents:

In small ponds, you can install a grid of wire (polypropylene wire will work) and stretch the wire over the pond’s surface to create a a flight hazard and discourage them from using the pond.  Install the wires no more than 5 feet apart and only 3-4″ above the water.  Keep the line taught, and check on it daily to make sure the geese don’t get stuck.  We do not recommend electric fencing at all.  The maintenance of electric fencing over a pond is tedious, and it is no less effective than other humane choices.

Some success has been reported with the use of decoys.  A fox, coyote, owl, or other predator decoy will sometimes work against geese.  It must be moved often, or rotate between different decoys.  Scarecrows are also effective, but try using helium balloons for the head of your scarecrow and draw HUGE bulls-eye looking eyes on it.  This can be effective.  Balloons with these design pre-printed are available, and work very well.  Click HERE to look at some.

We are also big fans of the sprinkler scarecrow.  This device is an automatic sprinkler that is motion activated.  If you have a section of your yard, or neighborhood that is attracting the wrong kind of traffic, you can install this sprinkler head and just like a motion-light, anytime it sees activity, it sends out a large stream of water to tell the traffic to stay away.  This is harmless against all wildlife, and extremely effective.  Even geese and ducks don’t want to have water shot at them.  It WILL deter animals from wherever you install it.  They are available for purchase online, and at Lowe’s and Home Depot, and easy to install.

There is a duck or goose nesting in a dangerous place.

Ducks and geese have adapted to our city life quite well. In order to find a safe nesting place away from people they generally go where people wont. This means you will find them on awnings, roofs, freeway medians, and parking lots. There is a large volume of these nests in the Midwest and in most cases we can not move the nests. The birds are protected by federal laws and Conservation doesn’t allow relocation. In some severe cases where there is a danger to humans or immediate danger to the birds a licensed rehab center, or Dept. of Conservation may consider relocating them. In these situations please call the Wildlife Hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP and a wildlife specialist will get you the contact information for your local waterfowl rescue.Canada geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. As such, they can be legally hunted in the fall and early winter. Adult geese, their nests, eggs, or young cannot be harmed out of the legal hunting season without the necessary permits. Contact your local conservation department before taking any action that might adversely affect geese.

I found an egg or an unattended nest.

Nest removal can be carried out, at any time, as long as no eggs are present. Repeatedly removing nesting materials usually will force breeding waterfowl to relocate, build a new nest or nest later in the season. Nest construction may last for several weeks and the first egg may be laid less than 24 hours after the nest is constructed. Once the first egg is laid in a nest, no further action can be taken without an egg/nest destruction permit issued by the Division of Fish and Wildlife. If you have a problem with nesting waterfowl please call the Wildlife Hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP for more information.

I have witnessed someone killing and/or hurting protected birds, what can I do?

The Humane Society of Missouri has an Animal Cruelty Task Force that responds and investigates any act of cruelty that takes place in the state of Missouri.  Call (314) 647 – 4400 and press zero to report any instances of wildlife abuse or cruelty.  You can also try calling the local sheriff’s department, conservation department or animal control. Get pictures if possible, many times people will stop if they know they are being watched and that someone cares about the birds.  Please feel free to call us at the Wildlife Hotline @ 1-855-WILD-HELP to get the phone numbers for your local authorities.