Citizens for the Preservation of Wildlife, Inc.

Waterfowl Rescue, Rehabilitate, and Release

Citizens for the Preservation of Wildlife, Inc. (CPW) has been contacted by numerous Home Owners Associations (HOA) and Industrial sites to assist them with humane methods to deal with Canada geese on their property. In response to these requests CPW has developed a Habitat Modification Program and brochure utilizing natural grasses, plants, fencing and netting practices to dissuade Canada geese from nesting or residing at particular locations. The modification of a site can be used to (1) humanely and naturally lower the number of geese at locations, (2) contain them to one area of the pond site and away from human activities, (3) or dissuade geese from living on the property all together.

The primary known cause of geese residing on a property is the common practice of planting fields of bluegrass (Kentucky bluegrass) up to the body of open water. Another cause is the major development of storm water management (rain water and pollution retention runoffs) infrastructure over the past 10-15 years. It is not the fault of the geese that we have put out ideal habitat for them to graze, mate, breed, and raise their young. With water for their safety, well-fertilized and manicured lawns, socialization of people by recreational feeding, and few predators, geese will reside in our neighborhoods, making a home for their families. Canada geese prefer to live on land that is often mowed and manicured, and foraging areas that are immediately adjacent to waterways. Altering the water’s edge is a method of decreasing or intimidating the comfort level of geese, inducing them to stay in the water and removing easy access to food/grazing.

CPW staff has observed that Habitat Modification is the best and most effective practice to significantly reduce the concerns citizens may have about geese population, and bring the complaints to a tolerable level. The goal or solution in Habitat Modification is to discourage the geese by reducing the forage/grazing availability, or by modifying the water’s edge so that geese cannot move from their safe cover to the pathway of the grazing area (upland grazing). The long-term perspective is to convert the environment from grass to vegetation not used by geese, or not palatability to attract geese.

Canada geese are grazers and vegetative feeders.  Their diet consists mostly of grasses and succulent green vegetation and they prefer lawn grass in urban locations. A lawn or open field next to a body of water usually characterizes urban areas with goose concerns.  Canada geese thrive in areas where food and water are sufficient, and a high level of comfort or safety so that they can raise their young.  Geese can be affected by these three components and will move on if any one of these three elements are removed or altered.  Canada geese have at least 25 vocalizations, body posture, and head movements to communicate.  Canada geese in the Northern Virginia area usually start selecting mates mid-February, so you will begin to see displays of aggressive behaviors among the male geese. You will see aggressive attacking, biting, and pulling of feathers among the male geese, and much chasing back and forth. The elder geese are already mated up and will begin to separate from the flock. During this time, you will see couples grazing or swimming side by side, rather than a large group of geese together. It is the first time mating or single male geese that conduct the aggressive fighting towards each other that you will see by the end of February. Females select the male as a mate. The goose (gander) is ready to mate at the age of three years, and the female (goose) is ready to mate at 3-4 years of age. Male geese are kicked out of the family at the age of one (or by the next nesting season when new goslings arrive), but the female goose stays with the family until she selects a mate. The young female goose (up to age 3-4) will hang back from the parents and new goslings and help raise the goslings, while the young male geese (up to age 3) form a group of single, young male geese. It is during this time that the young male geese practice getting along, foraging, learning the chain of command (rites of passage), communication and vocalizations, and how to protect himself.
Canada geese in our region usually begin nesting in March and will hatch their clutch of eggs by beginning to the end of April. Females almost always return to the exact nesting site each year or the same immediate area, unless that site has been altered so that it’s unappealing or a threat to their safety in nesting.
Canada geese mate for life and are extremely protective of their mate and off spring. Canada geese mourn for a long period of time when they lose their mate and may not mate for years after losing a mate.
Canada geese molt, lose their flight feathers and the ability to fly, starting in mid-June to August. This condition tends to make geese congregate in large groups for safety and you will see a lot of feathers around.
During the winter when lakes and ponds freeze over, geese from all over and local ponds, will congregate at any open, aerated water. Some may decide to stay at this location to raise their young if the female decides to nest at this pond. Once a female Canada goose chooses a nesting spot, she will return to this exact spot every year.

Plant vegetative barriers such as shrubs, cattails, grasses, bulrushes or hedges to obstruct sight lines and  block pathways. These barriers should create a 5-10 foot swath around the water’s edge, the deeper the barrier the more effective it will be. The strategy of this plan is to plant barriers to intimidate the geese, block their sight, obstruct easy access to the water from the water's edge, and create limited escape opportunities from perceived predators. Effective vegetative barriers work best when the numbers of geese are low.  (click on photos to enlarge)
It is effective to allow grass to grow taller, about 18-36 inches in height. Tall grass reduces the abundance of young tender shoots of grass, which geese love to graze on.
Reduce or eliminate the use of fertilizer, since geese appear to prefer fertilized grasses or plants for grazing.  Winter dormant species of grass is less attractive to geese due to the coarse fibrous nature during the season.
Reduce or eliminate short grass areas, especially those close to open water. This is helpful because geese are reluctant to move far from the safety of the water. Replant the upland grass with rough grasses, such as tall prairie grass, native grasses, tall fescue, ivy, or trees.
Erect fences to block pathways between short grass areas, open water and  nesting sites. Fences and structural obstructions are effective methods used in habitat Modification. Some forms of barriers are: gabion baskets, RipRap, railing, fencing, wooden boardwalks, and retaining walls. These barriers are most effective when combined with landscaping modifications such as grasses, ivy, and shrubs. Together these create a permanent low-maintenance environment that is intimidating to geese.
Temporary fencing methods can be used during pre-nesting and the pre-flightless/molting seasons. Usually this method will dissuade geese from nesting or congregating at your location during these seasons. Geese need good visibility and easy access for themselves and their young, who can’t fly, for safety reasons. If fencing is used, the fencing should be placed in the water and tiered with emergent vegetation; the pond edges should be completely fenced. CPW staff have observed that temporary man-made fencing such as: silt fencing, rope, strung wire, and construction fence is very effective short-term techniques, BUT, an effective Habitat Modification program must be designed and implemented as a long-term solution. Temporary fencing should never be used as a barrier during nesting, goose brooding, or molting seasons. The fence enclosure approach entraps goslings and geese.





Please contact CPW to assist you on Habitat Modification on your property.

Contact Robin McClary at (571) 201-5366, or e-mail


Perform an on-site inspection of the property.
Issue an impact report detailing the problem areas observed.
Conduct a survey in the community to assess the level of tolerability.
Consult with property managers and recommend non-lethal techniques for reducing the issues.
Assist with acquiring vendors to provide vegetation, fencing, or humane services.
Provide a computer schematic of the property and a proposed design of modification, with plantings and vegetation.
Attend HOA community meetings or town meetings necessary to resolve issues.
Advise and consult with maintenance personnel in the usage of specialized plantings and maintaining the vegetation for a successful outcome.
Provide education on Habitat Modification techniques and the nature of geese to residents, managers and maintenance personnel, this will increase the level of tolerance and understanding in your community.
CPW staff will be available to provide on-going support during the development and implementation of the program.

CPW’s mission is to educate the public about the nature of geese and their habitat, with a promising outcome of a level of tolerance for people, creating an environment where geese can be a natural part of parks and open land. CPW maintains that Habitat Modification and public education are fundamental in alleviating the conflicts people perceive with geese. We will NEVER refer anyone to the USDA/Wildlife Services, because this agency uses lethal methods, such as rounding up adult Canada geese and their 1-3 month old goslings, and either throw them into portable gas chambers, or these poor geese are tossed into small crates, separating mates, young geese and goslings, leaving all these geese fearful for their lives. They are then driven to slaughter facilities and inhumanely killed. Although agencies, such as USDA/Wildlife Services are supposed to provide educational brochures and information on their web site on humane methods to persuade Canada geese to live elsewhere, they don’t take the time to educate. It’s because they take in more money by killing Canada geese and other wildlife by killing them.

After five years of researching and implementing Habitat Modification techniques, CPW staff recommends the following plants for an effective program:

Arundo donax (Giant Reed)

Cyperus species (Feather Reed grass)

Glyceria mazima variegata (Manna grass)

Juncus effusus (Common rush)

Miscanthus sinensis and Cultivars (Chinese Silver grass)

Phalaris arundinacea picta (Ribbon grass)

Spartina pectinata aureo-marginata (Cord grass)

Pennisetum setaceum (Crimson Fountain grass)

Palm Branch Sedges


Miscanthus-Floridulus (Maiden grass)

Daylillies, Hosta, Ferns, Yucca, Ornamental grasses, and Black Eyed Susie

All photos and text Copyright (c) Citizens for the Preservation of Wildlife, Inc./ Permission must be given for use or reprint