Nuisance Canada Geese
Canada geese are a valuable natural resource that provides recreation and enjoyment to bird watchers, hunters, and the general public throughout New York State. But in recent years, flocks of local-nesting or "resident" geese have become year-round inhabitants of our parks, waterways, residential areas, and golf courses. Too often, they cause significant problems.
In urban and suburban areas throughout New York State, expanses of short grass, abundant lakes and ponds, lack of natural predators, limited hunting, and supplemental feeding have created an explosion in resident goose numbers. While most people find a few geese acceptable, problems develop as local flocks grow.
- over-grazed lawns
- accumulations of droppings and feathers on play areas and walkways
- nutrient loading to ponds
- public health concerns at beaches and drinking water supplies
- aggressive behavior by nesting birds
- safety hazards near roads and airports
Based on the growing frequency and severity of complaints about geese, DEC biologists have concluded that a more acceptable number of resident geese in New York would be at or below 85,000 birds. This is far fewer than the current population estimate of more than 200,000 birds. However, this is a long-term statewide population goal. It guides our management programs and policies, including establishing hunting seasons and bag limits and allowing additional take of geese by permit.
Dealing with Nuisance Geese
There are many ways to discourage geese from settling in your area. No single technique is universally effective and socially acceptable. Persistent application of a combination of methods is usually necessary and yields the best results. Detailed information on dealing with nuisance geese is provided in the DEC publication "When Geese Become a Problem" (PDF). This fact sheet provides general information on Canada geese in New York. It describes the most effective methods currently available to prevent or alleviate problems that geese can cause.
All Canada geese, including resident flocks, are protected by Federal and State laws and regulations. In New York, management responsibility for Canada geese is shared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), and the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC).
It is illegal to hunt, kill, sell, purchase, or possess migratory birds or their parts (feathers, nests, eggs, etc.) except as permitted by regulations adopted by USFWS and DEC.
The circumstances when federal or state permits are needed to address a problem with Canada geese can be complex; however, here are some general guidelines:
- No federal or state permits are needed to scare, herd, or chase away geese by any means, including dogs or noisemakers, as long as no birds are physically harmed.
- If you only want to destroy goose nests or treat the eggs with corn oil (or puncturing) to prevent hatching, simply visit the USFWS's Resident Canada Goose Nest and Egg Registration Site (leaves DEC website) to register on-line. You do not need any special authorization or permit from DEC.
- If you are the manager of an airport or military airfield, determine your eligibility to conduct lethal control of geese between April 1 and September 15 by reviewing the requirements of the control order for resident Canada geese at airports and military airfields (leaves DEC website). If you qualify, you do not need any special authorization or permit from DEC; to take geese at other times of the year a Federal permit is needed.
- If you are a farmer or manager of a beach or drinking water supply, and you want permission for the lethal removal of geese between April 1 and August 31, you do not need a federal permit but need written authorization from your local DEC Wildlife office.
- In most other situations, including areas where geese are a general nuisance (parks, golf courses, residential or commercial properties, etc.), or to kill geese at other times of the year, you need a specific Federal permit. To apply for a federal permit, contact the New York State office of USDA Wildlife Services at (518) 477-4837.
- DEC generally does not allow relocation of geese with or without a permit.
- For more information, view, print, or download the document below or contact your local DEC Wildlife office.
Additional information is provided in the document "Permit Requirements for Take of Canada Geese in New York (PDF)" (updated March 2013). This document provides general information about state and federal permit requirements to take Canada geese (including nests or eggs).
Federal Regulations Associated with the Control of Canada Geese
The following federal regulations guide management actions that may be taken to deal with nuisance Canada geese. Visit the Links Leaving DEC's Website in the right-hand column to read the full text of the federal regulations.
- 50 CFR Sec. 21.49 Control order for resident Canada geese at airports and military airfields
- 50 CFR Sec. 21.50 Depredation order for resident Canada geese nests and eggs
- 50 CFR Sec. 21.51 Depredation order for resident Canada geese at agricultural facilities
- 50 CFR Sec. 21.52 Public health control order for resident Canada geese
Long-Term Population Goals for Resident Canada Geese
2005 - the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service completed a Final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Resident Canada Goose Management. Population objectives, as identified by flyway management plans, were incorporated into the Final EIS to help define its objectives for acceptable population reduction and management. The population estimate and objective for New York in that document were 161,000 and 85,000 geese, respectively.
Spring 2009 - following the US Airways Flight 1549 incident, DEC cooperated with federal and local officials to develop an action plan to reduce the number of resident Canada geese that posed a hazard to aviation safety in the New York metropolitan area. U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services program accepted lead responsibility for developing and implementing a specific work plan to reduce the number of geese around JFK and LaGuardia airports. That work plan was designed to be more aggressive, and more effective, than the variety of non-lethal measures that had been used at both airports for many years.
2011 - the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) helped develop a management plan for resident Canada geese in the Atlantic Flyway (PDF) (East Coast of the U.S. and Canada). At that time, DEC estimated the number of resident geese in New York to be approximately 240,000 birds. Based on the growing frequency and severity of complaints about geese, DEC biologists concluded that a more acceptable number of resident geese in New York was at or below 85,000 birds. Our management efforts since 1999 have been largely to encourage or implement programs or policies to help achieve that population level.
DEC continues to advocate for a reduction in the number of Canada geese in New York State to 85,000 birds (from what has since grown to 364,000 birds in spring 2019). We believe that a much smaller resident goose population would best serve diverse public interests.
Unfortunately, we are farther from the goal now than we were in 1999, so we continue to seek practical and effective ways to reduce the population. Foremost among these is goose hunting, which results in estimated harvests of some 50,000-100,000 resident geese annually across New York State. DEC will continue to expand goose hunting opportunities wherever possible to help control or reduce resident goose populations. However, this is not an option in many urban and suburban areas, so capture and removal programs have become necessary.