State Tightens Geese Laws

BERLIN – State officials this week announced modified regulations to help farmers and property owners cope with an increasingly larger population of Canada geese that have taken up residence on fields, parks and golf courses across Maryland including Worcester County.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) this week announced it was partnering with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services on a plan to provide farmers and other property owners across the state with the necessary tools to manage the growing population of Canada geese. For years, local farmers and golf course superintendents have wages a battle against the pesky birds, which gobble crops and munch fairways and greens throughout the area.

Canada geese are largely migratory and typically make a brief stop in the area along their routes. However, because of favorable climate conditions and an abundance of food, many have taken up permanent residence in Worcester County and throughout mid-Atlantic area in recent years. DNR officials announced this week the state has taken steps to provide landowners with more weapons in their arsenal against the prolific birds.

“Maryland recently modified its regulations to help improve resident Canada goose population control efforts to make it more effective and user-friendly for landowners and managers,” said DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service Director Paul Peditto this week. “We hope these programs will make it easier for Marylanders to resolve resident Canada goose conflicts.”

According to Peditto, past efforts have shown Canada goose depredation control is most effective when a combination of techniques is used in concert. Among the techniques laid out in the recently amended state regulations are expanded, but limited, hunting seasons, nest and egg destruction, non-lethal treatment methods, such as physically removing the geese and re-locating them to another area, and other lethal alternatives.

“As with most wildlife problems, an integrated approach using a combination of tools has proven to be the best way to deal with resident Canada goose depredation,” said Peditto. “In most cases, non-lethal methods work quite well. However, the special depredation orders provide an additional prescription that deals with persistent geese in chronic situations.”

To that end, several methods for handling chronic Canada goose problems were recently approved including the destruction of resident Canada goose nests and eggs. Private landowners and public land managers may now destroy Canada goose nests and eggs on the property under their jurisdiction between March 1 and June 30 if necessary to resolve or prevent injury to people, property, agricultural crops or other interests. However, before any goose nests or eggs are destroyed, landowners must register with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

While many of the new rules regarding the management of Canada geese are directed at agriculture, the same rules apply for golf courses in the area, which have long battled the pesky birds on the fairways and greens with varied results. Course managers and superintendents this week said the geese leave droppings all over the courses and often munch the grass right down to the nub. On top of that, the geese can be downright nasty to the golfers, especially during nesting time.

As a result, many of the courses have found creative methods for controlling the geese. One course in the area used to employ a border collie who roamed the grounds chasing the geese away. Another strings fishing line around the ponds on the course about six inches off the ground, and when the geese land on the ponds, they can’t waddle on to the fairways and greens.

Lighthouse Sound Superintendent Tom Akers said this week killing the birds or destroying their nests and eggs is a measure of last resort. Akers said at Lighthouse Sound, groundskeepers use “whistlers and bangers” to help keep the geese at bay. Whistlers are noise-makers fired from a pistol in the direction of the geese that make a whirring sound that drives the birds away. Bangers are essentially blanks fired from a shot gun, the loud noise of which sends the birds scurrying.

While certainly more humane, the deterrents do not always prevent the geese from returning, leaving Akers and other course superintendents in the area searching for more permanent alternatives. Akers said the new rules approved last week by the EPA and the DNR could help the situation, although he admitted an aversion to destroying their nests and eggs.

“The two biggest problems with them is that they munch the grass and leave their feces all over the place,” he said. “As golf courses, we always like to try to peacefully co-exist with nature but it isn’t always possible.”

Akers said many of the Canada geese in the area have taken up permanent residence. “Most of them used to be migratory and would stop by here at different times of the year, but now there is a large group that seems to live here all year round,” he said. “Usually, they aren’t out during the day and come out on the course at night, but even that seems to have changed.”