Geese (and their droppings) seem to be everywhere in our county this summer. And we need to stop feeding them. Our seemingly good intentions are hurting these valued members the wildlife community.
— Fairfax Co. Police (@fairfaxpolice) July 17, 2016
Geese can rapidly become dependent on human-provided foods. Much of what we use to feed geese (bread, corn, popcorn, pastries, etc.) provides little or no nutritional value and can cause significant health problems for geese and other wildlife.
- Dependency on human-provided foods with empty calories can cause malnourishment (and starvation in severe cases).
- They lose their natural fear of humans and can become aggressive.
- Large concentrations of geese can cause environmental damage due to overgrazing, as well as degrading water quality and soil erosion.
- Unsanitary conditions and health concerns arise from significant accumulations of goose feces and feathers.
- Safety hazards occur when geese cross roadways or flock in medians, along road shoulders or at airports.
- Diseases and parasites can spread more rapidly within goose populations (e.g., avian cholera, avian botulism, aspergillosis).
In Virginia, it is unlawful for any person to place, distribute, or allow the placement of food, minerals, carrion, trash, or similar substances when it attracts any species of wildlife in such numbers or circumstances to cause property damage, endanger any person or wildlife, or create a public health concern.
Our wildlife officials urge residents to stop feeding the geese. “It is a common misconception that suburban areas, such as Fairfax County, are devoid of food for wildlife and that human intervention is necessary for species to survive,” says Katherine Edwards, wildlife biologist. “Suburban environments provide sufficient food resources and safety to support the geese – as evidenced by the abundant populations of geese present in Fairfax County.”
Left on their own, geese will feed on a variety of nutritious foods that are available (e.g., grasses, sedges, berries, grains and seeds) and will move to new locations when resources have been depleted.
For information on managing wildlife interactions including geese, call the Virginia Wildlife Conflict Helpline toll-free at (855) 571-9003, 8 am to 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday.
- Geese are federally protected.
- There are two distinct populations: migratory geese and “resident” geese (non-migratory).
- Geese mate for life and females lay 5-12 eggs with an incubation period of 25 to 30 days.
- Adult geese go through a molt in late June to early July where they shed and replace their flight feathers with new ones. Geese are flightless during this period and are joined by their young goslings who have not yet developed flight feathers.