Canada Geese are, surprisingly, hated by many people in the UK. It’s fascinating to look at why we’re so antagonistic towards them.
Canada Geese have made it to Western Europe on their own, but individuals were imported in the late 17th century as an addition to King James II’s waterfowl collection in St. James’s Park. Relocating them destroyed their natural migratory behaviour so they have become resident. It’s not the Geese’s fault; it’s Royalty.
In Britain, the population of Canada Geese was increased by hunters and grew from between 2,200 and 4,000 birds in 1953 to an estimated UK breeding population of 62,000 pairs and 190,000 wintering birds now. One of their natural predators would be the Red Fox. Hunters have traditionally killed large numbers of foxes, with gamekeepers increasing the killing by shooting since the ban on hunting with dogs. 100,000 foxes are killed by cars each year in the UK. Another natural predator of their eggs is the Carrion Crow. They have been freely killed by landowners under a free licence system issued by the ironically-named Natural England. It’s not the Geese’s fault; it’s hunters, gamekeepers, landowners and car drivers.
Their growing population has seen them branded as pests for their messy droppings, the bacteria in their droppings, the noise, and their confrontational behaviour. For me, that sounds like a perfect description of human behaviour, rather than goose behaviour.
A large part of their success has been their use of grassy areas like parks, gardens, golf courses and animal pasture; areas which only exist because we’ve destroyed the temperate rainforest which existed before it. Much of their increase has been encouraged by hand-feeding, especially by bread. We’ve taken large, territorial animals and given them the perfect conditions for life. It’s not the Geese’s fault; it’s people’s destruction of the natural world.
It’s illegal to trap or kill Canada Geese or to take or destroy their eggs under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It’s a maximum of six months in jail or a £5,000 fine if you do so. Landowners, however, are able to kill them under licence, but it appears to be illegal to sell wild Canada Goose meat. It’s not the Geese’s fault; its the law.
Why are Canada Geese a problem? Royalty, hunters, gamekeepers, landowners, car drivers, destruction of the natural world and the law.
They are simply doing what comes naturally. Here’s one coming in to land: