GRAND RAPIDS, MI — To some MLive readers, Barry County officials who recently approved plans to eradicate its mute swan population are targeting the wrong fowl.Instead, another bird considered by many to be as much, if not more, of a nuisance as the swans should be killed off: the widespread Canada goose.”The Canada geese are more of a problem,” reader Paul Schramm commented on The Grand Rapids Press’s Facebook page. “Parasites and filthy.”Others seemed to agree, saying the large birds congregate and leave parks and private property covered in feces.”Canada geese seem to be the bigger problem,” reader aktow said. “They are everywhere now and are pretty destructive. I guess this is where we leave it to the experts.”The conversation started after news Barry County would, over the course of five years, work with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to eradicate mute swans.
Wildlife officials said the swans are an invasive species not native to Michigan, whose seemingly insatiable appetites can deprive other wildlife of food and harm ecosystems.They also can be aggressive toward other creatures and even humans, DNR waterfowl expert Barb Avers said.Unlike the swans, Canada geese actually are native to Michigan, Avers said. What’s more, more than 60,000 waterfowl hunters in the state help keep their numbers in check.Canada geese may be hunted at various times between late summer and winter, and there are daily bag limits.”We try to balance that with trying to have as few nuisance complaints as possible,” Avers said. “I look at them as completely separate” from mute swans.
Still, the geese are a pervasive presence throughout Michigan. There are more than 300,000 in the state, up from an estimated 9,000 in 1970, according to the DNR.Though not as aggressive as mute swans, Canada geese are known to leave feces buildup in their wake.This can be unsightly on lawns, and even elevate bacteria levels in waterways. High concentrations of bacteria from goose droppings have even forced beach closures.Earlier this year, a Grand Rapids resident petitioned the city to evict Canada geese from the city’s Riverside Park because of feces buildup.”It is a serious issue,” Grand Rapids Mayor George Heartwell said during the City Connection TV program in April, according to citizen news website The Rapidian,”and I want to treat it seriously.”Canada geese also have a habit of choosing “inappropriate” nesting spots, like bushes near buildings, according to the DNR. They also tend to be aggressive while nesting.The birds also are known to damage agriculture. The DNR proposes control methods like hunting, using scare devices or dogs to scare the geese away, among others.Overall, though, the species “aren’t having this type of wetland vegetation impact” like the swans, Avers said.Read more about Michigan’s Canada goose problems here, and weigh in on the Barry County swan cull here.