A northward flight of Canada geese or goose broods swimming on a pond are signs of spring Minnesotans welcome. However, the welcome quickly wears thin when geese begin feeding on crops. This guide describes how growers can reduce or eliminate these problems. A combination of the methods, customized for a grower's particular situation, will provide the best results.
Soybeans, sunflowers and small grains planted near wetlands and lakes are attractive to flightless Canada geese. Flightless geese may be goslings which are too young to fly, or molting adults. Newly hatched goslings eat primarily aquatic insects. However, after 3 weeds, goslings become grazers and can move into adjoining crop fields. Action taken before goose damage begins is the most effective. Scout wetlands and lakes adjacent to crop fields for goose broods in late April and May to identify potential problems.
Shoreline Vegetation Management
Managing shoreline vegetation is an effective and permanent method of reducing goose damage to crops. Canada geese avoid using area where plants block their view and restrict access to the field. Avoid tillage to the wetland or lake edge. Establish grasses that stand 36 inches or taller on a 50-100 foot strip along the shoreline. Suggested grasses include big bluestem, Indiangrass, prairie cordgrass or switchgrass. These grasses general remain standing after the snow has flattened other grasses. You may also establish a shrub belt and leave an unmown grass strip between the water and your crops. Contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District or the Natural Resources Conservation Service for details on establishing grasses and shrubs along shorelines. Temporary measures such as fences may be necessary to keep geese from your fields until the vegetation is established.
Some growers may want to consider establishing pasture or hay crops adjacent to lakes or ponds. Although geese may still use these crops, they have a greater ability to recover from goose grazing than other crops. Livestock fencing on pastures can be modified to also exclude geese.
Alternative Feeding Sites
Alternative feeding or grazing areas can be effective at reducing goose damage when used in conjunction with fencing to keep geese out of target crop areas. Areas planted to small grain or a freshly mown area of grass less than 6 inches can provide geese an alternative grazing site. Contact your DNR Area Wildlife Office for further information on developing alternative goose feeding sites.
Swathed grain left on the ground for more than a few days is vulnerable to Canada geese. Occasionally, this is unavoidable due to weather conditions. Flocks of non-breeding or migrating geese are also attracted to newly sprouted grain crops in early spring. Most of the methods discussed here are designed to give the grower short-term protection until the grain may be combined, or to discourage flying geese from feeding on young grain crops until they become established.
Flags made from 13 gallon white plastic trash bags, or black poly sheeting can be effective at reducing goose damage in swathed grain or young grain crops. The flags flap and rattle in the breeze and frighten geese.
Helium filled balloons with a large contrasting eye spot or "scare eyes" may be staked in a field. Tether balloons with 75-pound test monofilament line and allow them to rise 10 feet above ground.
You will need at least 1 flag or balloon per acre of field. Use flags or balloons in conjunction with automatic propane exploders.
Scare Eye Balloons are available from:
Bird-x, Inc., (800) 662-5021
Bird Scare Predator Eye, Inc., (800) 252-0933
Reed-Joseph International Co., (800) 647-5554
Margo Supplies, Ltd., (403) 285-9731
Wildlife Control Technology, Inc., (800) 235-0262
Automatic propane exploders work best when used in conjunction with other techniques such as flagging or balloons. Propane exploders make a loud sound that frightens geese. Exploders may be disturbing to human neighbors. Use exploders only when damage is occurring. Use one exploder per 10 acres. Move the exploder to a different location in the field daily. If the exploder has an adjustable timer, change the duration between explosions daily.
Propane Exploders are available from:
Reed-Joseph International, (800) 647-5554
H.C, Shaw Co. ZON Mark II Scare Gun, (800) 647-5554
Crop Management Practices
Minimizing the amount of time grain remains on the ground will lower the risk of geese locating the crop. Straight combining and mechanical drying reduces the risks associated with swathing.
Emergency Materials Assistance
The DNR can loan or provide emergency equipment, such as the energized fence materials described in this brochure, to growers experiencing goose damage problems. These materials are available to growers through a Cooperative Damage Management Agreement (CDMA). A CDMA is an agreement between the DNR and the grower to establish a long-term plan to reduce goose damage problems. The CDMA outlines what each party will contribute. Because each grower's situation is different. CDMA's are customized to provide effective solutions to reduce goose damage problems. If you are interested in emergency materials assistance, please contact your local DNR Area Wildlife Office for details.