Urban Canada Goose - Arlen Redknap - PNG

Another Big City Looking At Culling Geese

If you live up north, where the air and water are reasonably clean, it’s reasonable to think that declaring open season on troublesome Canada geese to reduce their numbers is a good idea. Better yet when you consider that the meat can be eaten, paying homage to sustainability. But…

Geese Infest Park Pond - © CHris Huber - rapidcityjournal.comCanada geese infest a park pond, causing water and lawn pollution,
and deny all other potential users right of way.

My hometown, Ottawa, which recently passed the 1 million population mark, is among the many North American metropoli faced with the conundrum of dealing with an infestation of big, mean-tempered, voracious Canada geese. City Council here considered – about 10 years ago, I think – hiring professional hunters to cull the hordes of Canada geese that took up residence here every spring when they returned from the south.

Over the warm months, they eat every bit of vegetation in sight, cover the ground in our parks and public spaces with their excrement and raise large families of voracious, noisy chicks. Believe it or not, some folks actually feed them, which the geese see as a reward for their behaviour.

What happened to the geese?

The hard, sad truth is, you can’t control them. They no longer respond to loud noises (shotgun blasts) or heed scarecrows. Nor do they fear human or beast, attacking people, kids and pets who dare to intrude on their purloined territories.

When someone in the City administration came up with the idea of culling the hordes and donating the meat to food banks, shelters and other charitable organizations, all involved thought it was a win-win-win. But it was duly discovered that Toronto City Council had already entertained the idea some years before that and even ran a pilot program – which revealed that their urban goose flesh contained high levels of mercury and other heavy metals associated with car exhaust and other big city activities, not to mention parasites and avian diseases which made it unfit for human or even animal consumption. Ottawa officials decided not to pursue the notion further.

Now someone has reinvented the wheel yet again…

Every few years, someone in some goose poop-choked North American city comes up anew with the culling idea, complete with the meat donation angle, only to be hailed as a genius, then pooh-poohed for not doing their homework. This year, it’s Denver, CO. I do hope Denver officials don’t waste time and money ‘exploring’ the idea or running pilot programs. I have a feeling they’ll come to a conclusion similar to those reached in the cities who’ve considered the idea before them.

What can we take away from this experience?

First, it’s still okay to consume wild rural geese or ducks if they’ve been raised outside the pollution corona that enfolds all major urban centres. So, hunters, don’t stop cleaning and eating your kills. Note that I still have major issues with bone heads who, for example, kill deer just for their antlers.

You may find Goose Flesh greasy, but take the time to learn how to roast it properly and render off the excess fat. You’ll find that Goose – which is all ‘dark meat’ – is exceptionally flavourful and tender, and you may just want to expand your poultry pantheon to include it in your diet regularly.

Also, cities should go ahead with culling programs. That will ease the goose crowding problem for a while, along with the inundation of poop all those huge birds produce. That in turn will reduce the number of new geese babies that hatch out every spring. But just forget donating the meat, and just landfill the carcases.

Finally, feel no guilt about killing off those freeloading, noisy, potentially violent interlopers who’ve colonized our parks and public spaces. Put human needs first, protecting our environment, our kids and our pets.

~ Maggie J.