The Current

A wildlife expert is using dogs to humanely combat the Canada geese problem in the U.S.

In the last 50 years, the United States has seen a steady rise in the number of Canada geese stocking its urban centres all year long. In an effort to thin the country's ranks of these pesky waterfowl, one wildlife expert is using border collies to chase them away from unwanted areas.

Border collies have 'wolf-like glance' that prevents birds from coming back, David Marcks says

David Marcks, an expert in humane bird management, says the number of Canada geese residing in the U.S. has grown in the last 50 years — and they are causing a variety of conflicts with people and the environment. (Colin Mulvany/Associated Press)
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To some, Canada geese and their fuzzy goslings offer a piece of wilderness in an urban setting. For others, the birds are nothing but a nuisance who carpet vital park spaces with their droppings and disturb the peace with their loud honking. 

In the last 50 years, the United States has seen a steady rise in the number of Canada geese stocking its urban centres all year long. 

In an effort to thin the country's ranks of these pesky waterfowl, one wildlife expert is using border collies to chase them away from unwanted areas.

"You can get permits and you can kill them, you can euthanize them using gas, you can do all kinds of stuff, which is inhumane," David Marcks told The Current guest host Megan Williams. 

"But I use border collies that use a wolf-like glance called the eye to influence a stalk or herd in a flight or movement."

Marcks is the owner and founder of Geese Police, a New Jersey-based company that specializes in humane goose management throughout several U.S. states.

The natural instincts of this particular dog breed, he says, are crucial to controlling where the ubiquitous bird can feed and nest.   

"Any dog could chase geese. [They] can run across the fairway or park and the geese will get up and fly away, but in minutes they'll come back and just land and start grazing again," he said.

Border collies, on the other hand, stalk them. 

"By me coming into a property three or four times a day, seven days a week, [the geese] count my dogs as several different natural predators and they'll go someplace else where they're not bothered," Marcks said.

He has used this tactic at a variety of places including baseball fields; New York City's Ellis Island and Central Park; and Washington's National Monument and reflecting pool. 

"All I want to do is take [the geese] out of conflict with people," he said. 

About 7 million birds in North America

In the early 1900s, Canada geese were nearly extinct due to market hunting and poor stewardship. In an effort to rebuild the population, the federal government passed the Migratory Birds Act. The regulations extend across Canada and the U.S., and make it illegal to disturb a nest once eggs have been laid. 

Since then, the populations of Canada geese are only getting bigger. There are now about seven million in North America, an estimated 3.5 million of which reside in the U.S., according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Marcks says the biggest problem the U.S. now faces with these waterfowl is the resident population: those that don't migrate.

"Back in the '50s, farmers and hunters, alike, used to use domestically raised Canada geese to lure wild geese in for hunting purposes," he said, pointing out it was also around that time they were released into the wild.

"What they didn't realize is that that population would double every five years." 

Spring is nesting season, says Marcks, and Canada geese go into full protective mode over their nests and 'become very aggressive' with people when their goslings are present. (Jack Taylor/Getty Images)

Scores of Canada geese now nest in temperate regions throughout the U.S.

Traditionally, Canada geese would fly back to nest where they were hatched in the northern reaches of Canada, Marcks said.

"They're actually very habitual and intelligent," he said.

But these newer birds don't have these memories of migration, and thus remain in the U.S. as year-round residents.

All I want to do is take [the geese] out of conflict with people.- David Marcks, Geese Police

This change in the bird's habits has also caused a long list of conflict. 

From humans trying to dodge confrontations with the nesting birds, contamination of parkland, to overgrazing of agriculture crops, Marcks says a booming avian population has strong societal and environmental impacts.

"Probably the No. 1 biggest complaint with Canada geese in the amount of droppings [and] the overgrazing of the lakes, which causes erosion," he said. 

"When farmers plant winter rye or corn, I mean, the geese will come in and it will be turned over in a day."


Written by Amara McLaughlin. Produced by Aruna Dutt.

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