Hawkeye News & Bulletins

Canadian geese launch amphibious assault

ALEXANDRA SHIMO | Special to The Globe and Mail Original Article »

The evolving saga of our beloved bird, the Branta canadensis, is a particularly domestic problem of our own creation. In recent weeks, Canadian geese have attacked senior citizens at a retirement community in Hamilton; their droppings have infiltrated a pharmaceutical company in Oakville, causing health concerns - and, at an elementary school in the same city, they pecked at small children in a near-Hitchcockian frenzy that caused a lock-down on the school. But vengeance is disallowed: the birds are protected by a government that claims to have its citizens' best interests at heart.

Their flock has pretty much has doubled in the past ten years to almost 250,000, but several wildlife-control and pest-extermination places said they didn't deal with this growing menace and all their pesky payload because there was "not much they could do."

Don't approach them

Canada Geese are nesting at this time of the year and so at their most aggressive, and approaching them is a little like swimming up to killer whale Tilikum to say hi." Moreover, the birds have the law on their side, and it's illegal to approach them for the purpose of moving them to a different location. Disturbing the creatures requires a licence, which means proving they're more than merely a nuisance. When a North York family complained that a pair of birds had taken over their swimming pool and garden, they were told it wasn't sufficient reason to go near them, explains Brad Gates, president of AAA Gates' Wildlife Control, who took the call. "Environment Canada takes moving the birds very seriously, and doesn't give out permits lightly."

Don't scare them

Canada Geese not only have their own lobby groups (Love Canada Geese, Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese), it is illegal to scare, haze or harass the birds under the Migratory Birds Convention Act. So while they might peck or chase you, don't under any circumstances hiss back.

Don't touch them

At a parking lot in London, Ontario, a few weeks ago, several geese were chasing drivers and denting the cars by pecking them and kicking them with their webbed feet. Yet when Humane Wildlife Control went in to remove the avian delinquents, several members of the public complained that people were touching the geese without a permit. "We were worried about being on YouTube that night," explains Bill Dowd, president of Humane Wildlife Control. "If there's any harassment of the geese, it would go viral."

Don't shoot them

Needless to say, reaching for your Lee-Enfield when pecked into submission is verboten. Under a few highly proscribed, highly legislated circumstances, you can hunt Canada geese for a few days per year in September, but only if you have a federal Migratory Game Bird Hunting permit, a wildlife habitat conservation stamp, an Ontario licence, the right type of gun, etc.

Like Helena Guergis, Canada geese can put up a noisy fight when moved from their natural habitat. Pyrotechnics usually scare them away, but they'll be back after a few seconds, says Dan Frankian, who heads Hawkeye Bird and Animal Control. Herding dogs such as collies, Brittanys or springer spaniels are a little better, i.e. the geese will waddle away for several hours before homing again. For real results, he recommends a militaristic-style, multi-prong assault, with pyrotechnics, dogs and birds of prey all working together for an "air-to-air" and "air-to-ground" simultaneous attack. "If you want to remove it and it's attacking people, then call a professional," says Mr. Frankian. "They are very aggressive creatures and you need an attack on all fronts."