The Unfamiliar Northern Invasion

Last Updated April 25, 2016 12:20 p.m. EST


Source: Pixabay, Stock Photo

The United States is covered with Canada Geese. These animals are a special kind of invasive species which can be found virtually everywhere and the knowledge their origins elude most people. A closer examination will uncover unknown characteristics and provide a bigger look at our natural environment.

Us Michiganders are certainly no strangers to invasive species. Our Great Lakes have become infested with zebra mussels. Our wood is overwhelmingly infected with the Emerald Ash Borer beetle. However, one particular species is a special type and doesn’t receive the recognition that the others do, Branta Canadensis, or the Canada Goose.

The Canada Goose is originally native to Alaska, Canada, western Greenland and some northern parts of the United States. Due to their migration patterns, they normally fly south to during the colder months, ranging from central U.S. to northern Mexico. However, lately a large number have taken up permanent residence in the U.S. This makes them unique in the they are somewhat native to certain areas and invasive to others.Below are pictures of Canada Geese I took right around where I live in Livonia, MI.

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“There are many problems that come along with their new found settlement plans.” said Anna Boegehold. “Anytime a species enter a new ecosystem, the dynamics change considerably. Things like food and space are challenged against other species, sometimes a matter of life or death. Resources are scarce and chances are the new species won’t have a predator to cull the numbers, as well as limit resource consumption.”

Ms. Boegehold is a PhD student in the Environmental Sciences department at Wayne State University and her knowledge of the zebra mussels invasion of The Great Lakes gives her insight into the repercussions of having a new species affect the food web.

Specifically to Canada Geese, there are many annoyances people find themselves exposed to around these creatures. One problem is their aggressive behavior, especially around the spring/summer months which are their mating season. They have been known to go after humans if approached. Below is a link on what to do if you’re under attack from a Canada Goose.

Another irritation is the droppings they leave behind. Almost everyone has been to been to an area that seems to be seemingly covered in these small droppings. A single goose can defecate every 20 minutes and up to 1.5 pounds each day. In addition to it just being generally unpleasant, the feces can contain parasites, bacteria, viruses and fungi that may be harmful to our health.

Canada Geese thrive in urban/industrial areas. They are very adaptable and can nest in essentially every environment that meets their weather standards. It is not uncommon to come across a goose in a parking lot or a residential neighborhood. Their aggressive nature and fecal matter is made worse by living so closely to us. Also things like driving and other day to day operations can be effected.

Canada Geese are notorious for making incredibly annoying sounds. Their honking seemingly goes on for as long as they are awake, sometimes deep into the night. Just another unfavorable aspect of them being constantly around us.

The hunting of Canada Geese is somewhat of a strange issue. Like most animals, they can be hunted during specified periods of the year and in certain areas. Michigan is home to tons of game areas and motivated hunters usually undergo little trouble finding one near them. However the problem resides in the fact that a significant population still resides in these urban/residential areas where hunting is of course out of the question.

How do we specifically cull the numbers here  or perhaps move them to a more acceptable area away from the general population? Also how can we differentiate between migratory and nonmigratory Canada Geese? Below is a map with some of the popular game areas pin-pointed around Michigan.

At least you can eat them…

But why are these geese switching from migratorial in the first place? The primary guess is an abundance of food and minimal predators. Up north, the geese were susceptible to bears, wolves, coyotes, eagles and other species. While the U.S. does consist of some of these, the concentration is far lower.

Kyle Kandilian works at the Environmental Interpretive Center at the University of Michigan Dearborn campus. Below is a video interview I conducted with Kyle on the history of the Canada Geese, the problems they have with them on campus and their current status as it pertains to populations and hunting.

Robert Brown works at the Huron-Clinton Metroparks, specifically Kensington, and deals with Canada Geese regularly. Below is an interview with Robert where he talks about DNR policy, geese health hazards and population control.

The Canada Goose flies under the radar when it comes to common knowledge of U.S. pests. While they are a mixed bag when it comes to aesthetic appeal, the problems they now cause with their permanent residency is something we are not fully prepared for yet. While everyday people may not be aware of this, the issue is on forefront of environmental organizations.

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