Many people enjoy watching and feeding geese and ducks at city facilities. While this may be a fun activity to do with the kids on a lovely summer evening, the activity has a negative impact on the water and recreational quality of our city's parks.
Why are there so many Canada geese around lakeshores?
In recent years, Canadian geese have used lakeshore lawns, parks, and golf courses to their advantage. With open water, few predators and abundant food sources, populations have thrived.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that in the early 1960's there were only 50,000 Canadian geese in North America, as of 1998 that number had increased to 2 million birds in the Eastern United States alone. The current population of Canadian geese in North Carolina is estimated at over 100,000.
Why is it harmful to feed waterfowl bread and popcorn?
Geese and ducks naturally feed on aquatic plants, grasses and small crustaceans. It is believed that the processed foods people feed them do not provide the range of nutrients the birds need for a healthy diet.
Feeding geese may make them more aggressive toward people. Geese who are accustomed to being handfed expect food from people and may aggressively approach people who do not have food.
Why are high populations of waterfowl detrimental?
Large populations of waterfowl in a small area cause soil compaction, shoreline erosion and damage to vegetation. This damage to soil and vegetation has negative impacts on the recreational and environmental quality of the area around the lake.
Concentrations of waterfowl result in a large quantity of bird droppings. Droppings contain phosphorus, which can contribute to algae growth in water. Excessive algae growth is harmful to the ecosystem and aesthetics of a lake. As algae die and decay, they algae use up oxygen. Low oxygen levels in a lake lead to fish kills and foul odors. Large quantities of algae in a lake are called algae "blooms" or "scums", when there are high levels of algae, the lake becomes green, smelly and unpleasant.
Additionally, waterfowl droppings may also contain bacteria and viruses. Waterfowl are hosts of the familiar parasite that causes swimmer's itch. Feeding waterfowl, particularly around beaches and docks, may contribute to swimmer's itch; reducing the recreational quality of these public areas.
If you are picnicking in an area where waterfowl congregate be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and make sure pets and children do not ingest waterfowl droppings.
Additional information can be found on the North Carolina Wildlife website at: http://www.ncwildlife.org/Portals/0/Learning/documents/Profiles/CanadaGoose.pdf