Canada geese are an important natural resource, highly prized as game birds and federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.For many, the sight and sound of a passing chevron of these birds is a life-affirming reminder of the passing of seasons here in Michigan.Unfortunately, the majestic birds aren’t nearly as popular when they’re flocking on the seventh green at the golf course or littering the shoreline with droppings at a beach or lakefront home.Here in Genesee County, the birds have been at least partly to blame for E. coli bacteria outbreaks at Mott Lake’s BlueBell Beach.The situation mostly has been under control the past few years, after county parks commissioners instituted an annual summer roundup and fall waterfowl hunting.But in some metropolitan areas where hunting is not an option, the DNR has developed a highly controlled and monitored nest-destruction program.
Applicants — including lake associations, groundskeepers and park managers as well as private landowners — must undergo a one-day training program and file reports for the DNR’s ongoing research and record-keeping.The timing of the program is crucial, intended to target only the resident population of birds and not the migrating populations of the South James Bay and Mississippi Valley flyways.Properly timed nest destruction encourages many of those adult resident geese to migrate out of urban areas for the summer.”It’s important to note we don’t have an overpopulation issue. The problem is more where they are and when they’re there,” said Tim Payne, the DNR’s Southeast Management Unit supervisor.
In 1998, 28 applicants signed up for the nest-destruction program. To date, more than 1,000 people have been through the program and more than 400 signed up this year.Genesee County is not eligible for nest-destruction permits, but there still are plenty of options to reduce human-goose conflicts.”We have all kinds of effective tools. The problem is we don’t put together the tools in our tool kit in the right combination to create the right effects that will work for us in our given situation,” said John Hadidian, director of the Urban Wildlife Program at Humane Wildlife Services, a division of the Humane Society of the United States that has worked with the DNR since 1996 to provide nonlethal options for goose control.”Geese are smart. They’ll figure things out. So, unless your aversive tactics change regularly, the birds can very easily accommodate.”