Yahara Portal

Explore the legacy and future of the Yahara Lakes and Watershed


What’s the Scoop on Goose Poop?

Canada geese are fun to watch when they fly south for the winter, but they may not be as enjoyable to look at when they are chomping on your son or daughter’s soccer field. And what goes in must come out; geese are big birds that make a big mess. Goose poop is gross and is one of the sources of pollution to the Yahara Lakes.

Canada geese are native to the area, but too much of a good thing leads to problems. One goose can consume up to four pounds of grass per day and turn that into three pounds of solid waste. Fifty geese can produce as much as 2.5 tons of waste in one year.

Messy waste from geese is also a serious water quality concern. Goose feces contain bacteria and nitrogen that pollute our beaches, parks and lakes. They are carriers of the swimmer’s itch parasite that leave us with itchy welts if we swim in contaminated water.

Warmer winters, less ice cover and an available source of food have allowed geese to overwinter in southern Wisconsin.  Resident goose populations have increased in recent years, and as our climate continues to warm, these populations are expected to grow.

Resident geese serve as living decoys that attract migratory flocks in the spring and fall, temporarily adding hundreds more geese to the same areas already contaminated by the year-round populations. In contrast to resident geese, migratory geese move on after a short stopover for rest and food

We don’t want to kill all the geese as they are part of our ecosystem. Canada geese and their nests are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  There is broad agreement, however, that our beaches would be much healthier without so many geese. 

Geese can live up to 20 years and produce many offspring each year. Without local predators, this adds up quickly to population explosion of local geese. Options for controlling the goose populations include reducing numbers by harvesting (killing) a portion of the flock. Other alternatives include discouraging feeding of geese, limiting their access to feeding and foraging areas, modifying shoreline and near-shore habitats with natural plantings or not mowing to make them less attractive to geese, oiling eggs to prevent their hatching, and harassing flocks with trained dogs to discourage them from setting up housekeeping near popular beaches.

Talking Goose Educates Property Owners About Benefits of Natural Shorelines

Increased development of lakeshore properties in Wisconsin has had a negative impact on natural scenic beauty, water quality, fish and wildlife habitat. A video featuring a live-action, animated talking goose was released on YouTube in February of 2010 by the University of Wisconsin-Extension as part of a new campaign aimed at encouraging shoreline property owners to adopt more natural shorelines and restore lakeshore habitat.

Recent research in Burnett County by UW-Extension has been exploring new ways to encourage lakeshore properties to maintain more natural shorelines. One insight to emerge from this research was that while property owners may be okay with watching geese flying overhead or swimming in the water, they do not like the birds congregating on their lawns, leaving unsightly and unsanitary fecal matter behind.

The video communicates that lawn-loving geese will not linger if they fear that natural shoreline vegetation may harbor predators who will eat them, their goslings or their eggs. Restoring natural shoreline vegetation is an important part of the overall maintenance of lake water quality and wildlife habitat in Wisconsin, and the video is intended to reach lakeshore homeowners who may not be focused on these issues.

Sebastian, the talking goose, discusses the importance of preserving and restoring natural shorelines in Wisconsin and conveys the message that by restoring lakefront shorelines, geese will be less of a problem for lakeshore property owners. The video is the first in a series that will expand UW-Extension’s established online presence with a viral marketing format.

Sebastian, the talking goose, was developed as part of a collaborative project headed by Bret Shaw, environmental communication specialist for UW-Extension and assistant professor of life sciences communication at UW-Madison, graduate students Beth Ryan and Travis Balinas from the Department of Life Sciences Communication at UW-Madison, and John Haack, St. Croix Basin natural resources educator for UW-Extension.

For more information on the Sebastian video, contact Bret Shaw, UW-Extension.

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