Canada Geese in the Capital Region

Historically, Canada Geese found on Vancouver Island were occasional migratory visitors over the autumn and winter months. In the 1960's and 70's, various programs were implemented to increase wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities in the region. The introduced geese were unable to learn migrating behaviour patterns from their parents. Eventually these geese interbred, creating a hybrid population of non-migratory resident geese which are not native to the region.    

The urban and rural environments of the capital region have many large open grassy areas that are close to water sources, creating the perfect habitat for Canada Geese. These habitats are often paired with a lack of hunting pressures and very few, if any, natural predators. Canada Geese have adapted well to living alongside humans and will nest in man made structures and even elicit food from people. These factors have attributed to an environment where goose populations can increase unhindered. The increasing populations of Canada Geese in the capital region are having significant environmental, economic, and social impacts. This has resulted in increasing pressure on local governments to take coordinated action.

How are Canada Geese impacting the region?

Human Health and Safety

Canada Geese have found that public spaces such as parks, farmland, beaches, lawns, school grounds, and even planters make very attractive nesting locations. These areas tend to be near water sources and provide additional protection from predators. Geese are very protective of their nests, eggs, and goslings during breeding season and can act aggressively towards people. Large populations of geese lead to high amounts of fecal matter in the water and on land resulting in higher fecal coliform counts, and other pathogens such as avian influenza and salmonella.

Environmental health

Large populations of geese lead to over-grazing, trampled vegetation, and soil erosion. Excessive amounts of goose feces can lead to algae growth in water sources, decreasing water quality and resulting in beach closures. Caution should be exercised when swimming in bodies of water with a large goose presence.

Canada Geese spread invasive grass species by depositing seeds in their feces and increasing the nutrient load of soils; threatening sensitive ecological reserves that include endangered Garry-oak ecosystems. Heavy trampling and grazing can also negatively impact rare and endangered plant species.

Overgrazing can impact estuaries and tidal marshes. These areas support coastal fish and wildlife and are vital habitats for young salmon, a vital part of the Salish sea's ecosystem. 

Economic Impacts

Canada Geese cause significant financial problems for our local farmers, recreation providers and businesses. Unfortunately, they damage crops, increase maintenance costs, cause soil erosion, and contaminate areas with fecal matter.

Canada Goose Management Strategy

The lack of a coordinated approach to managing goose populations across the region has resulted in moving geese and their associated impacts into new areas, continued expansion of nesting and over-wintering populations, and increasing ecological, economic, and social impacts to agricultural and recreational lands, estuaries and wetlands. Stewardship groups report significant and ongoing damage to native ecosystems on nearshore islands and to important estuaries, while the farming community reports significant and ongoing agricultural and economic impacts from geese.

In February 2023, the CRD Board approved a Canada Goose Management Service Establishment Bylaw that aims to reduce the impact of the rapidly growing Canada Goose population in the region. The bylaw was adopted after receiving elector assent through a regional alternative approval process (AAP).

The CRD will work with representatives from local government, First Nations, stewardship groups, and key stakeholders impacted by the large goose population to implement the strategy which will include development of an egg addling program, coordination of provincial and federal permits, and conducting strategic harvests.

The regional Canada Goose Management Service will provide coordinated management of Canada Goose populations and include:

  • Monitoring, mapping and reporting on Canada Goose populations and their impacts.
  • Coordinating and establishing collaborative partnerships with municipalities, First Nations, large landowners, Peninsula and Area Agricultural Commission, other government agencies and stewardship groups to implement the CRD's Regional Canada Goose Management.
  • Facilitating the development and implementation of a communications strategy and public education program to support the management of Canada Goose populations.
  • Collaboration with other Vancouver Island regional districts, local governments, and First Nations to reduce Canada Goose populations through the Vancouver Island Canada Goose Management Working Group.

Is it okay to feed Canada Geese and other waterfowl?

No, feeding Canada Geese and other waterfowl can cause them to become habituated to an area and look to humans as a food source. This can encourage large groups to congregate in one area increasing the spread of diseases, water pollution and overcrowding. Canada Geese have been known to beg people for food and can become aggressive when food is not offered. Human food such as bread and crackers are not a natural part of their diet and consuming too much human food can make geese and other waterfowl malnourished and cause irreparable health issues.

More information can be found on the BCSPCA’s website.  

Do Canada Geese spread Avian flu and am I at risk?

Geese are known carriers of Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). This disease rarely affects humans but is extremely contagious and can cause severe illness and death in many bird species. Walking in feces can spread the disease to other areas, including pet birds, poultry farms and wild birds. To prevent transmission, clean your hands, clothing, and footwear after coming in contact with wild birds or their feces.

If you see a sick or dead bird report it to the Wild Bird Reporting Line at 1.866.431.2473

More information about Avian Influenza can be found on the Government of Canada website.

Why do Canada Geese attack people?

Canada Geese are very protective of their nests, eggs, and goslings during breeding season. A goose exhibiting defensive behavior may hiss or honk while keeping its head bowed. If escalated, it may approach you or raise its wings to appear threatening. The best course of action is to back away slowly and calmly. Try to resist the urge to turn around and run. The goose is simply trying to scare you off and is unlikely to make contact if left alone. 

How long do Canada Geese live?

Canada Geese have an average lifespan of 10-24 years and can produce over 100 eggs in their lifetime. 

What is egg addling?

Egg addling is a wildlife management method of population control. Addling makes the embryo of an egg non-viable. This is done by coating the egg with oil to prevent gas exchange through the shell membrane or by vigorously shaking the egg. After addling is complete the egg is placed back into the nest and the goose continues to incubate the egg. This reduces the chances of the goose attempting to re-nest and laying more eggs. All egg addling activities require a permit from the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS).

Does egg addling harm the geese?

No, the techniques used for egg addling in the capital region are based off the Humane Society’s Canada Goose Egg Addling Protocol. To ensure the ethical and humane treatment of the eggs themselves, egg addling is performed within the first 14 days of incubation, before an air sac has developed inside the egg. Eggs can be tested for age using a float test; any eggs that float in water have developed beyond the accepted threshold for addling and are placed back into the nest.

Are you allowed to hunt Canada Geese?

Yes, Canada Geese can be hunted on Vancouver Island and some municipalities in the capital region even allow you to hunt geese on your own property. Contact your municipality for more information on regulations in your region.

For all regions, a migratory game bird hunting permit with a Canadian Wildlife Habitat Conservation Stamp is required from the Government of Canada. 

Will there be a cull?

The CRD is opposed to a Canada Goose cull. The CRD will work with First Nations, who will steward their land and exercise their hunting rights to implement a humane and ethical harvest. With a First Nations harvest, all parts of the bird are utilized, and a significant food source is created. Canada Geese are a federally protected species, and any mitigation measures must first be approved by the Canadian Wildlife Service and a provincial veterinarian. 

I have Canada Geese on my property causing damage, what can I do?

There are several mitigation techniques that you can undertake to reduce the number of Canada Geese causing damage on your property. These include exclusion, habitat modification, egg addling and removal. Some of these activities require a federal permit and a full description can be found in the Government of Canada's Handbook for Managing Canada Geese and Cackling Geese in Southern Canada

How can I help?

If you have Canada Geese using your property or the type of landscape that may attract geese in the future, there are several ways you can modify your lawn to make it less appealing to geese. Some of these modifications include installing fences, planting tall native vegetation along shorelines, covering planters with mesh, and keeping grass longer than 25cm. More information can be found on the Animal Alliance website.

Many local stewardship groups in the area are doing important work restoring estuaries and Garry-oak ecosystems previously damaged by Canada Geese. Some groups, such as the Peninsula Streams Society, GoOse and BCI,  have started including potential damage from Canada Geese into their restoration plans to prevent impacts in the future.  Consider volunteering or donating to one of these groups.

Report Canada Goose “hot spots”, nests, and young of the year to the CRD. This information helps technicians make future management plans for areas that require mitigation techniques.

Spread awareness about the impacts of Canada Geese and encourage your neighbours to goose-proof their properties and refrain from feeding wildlife.