Problems Geese Present
Canada Geese present many problems for home owners, businesses and their patrons.
Parasites, E.Coli, and aggression are just a few of those problems.
Canada geese feces can be hazardous to people's health, but usually only when inhaled or ingested. Walking past geese feces, or even lounging near them on the beach is likely safe to healthy people. However, the elderly, children, and pregnant or breastfeeding women are particularly susceptible to health risks posed by parasites that inhabit Canada geese feces. At even higher risk are those with weak immune systems, such as people with HIV/AIDS, chemotherapy recipients, recent organ donors and recipients, or those with lupus. Similarly, people with gastrointestinal (GI) problems, such as ulcers and irritable bowel disease, are also at increased risk, since they too cannot easily combat parasites from Canada geese feces.
Geese feces usually contain the parasites cryptosporidium, giardia, coliform, and campylobacter. Crytosporidium poses the most serious health hazard, since it causes cryptosporidiosis, an illness with the following symptoms:
- watery diarrhea
- weight loss
- stomach cramps or pain
Cryptosporidium was responsible for a 1993 outbreak of disease in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, when the city's water supply became contaminated. One hundred people died and 400,000 became ill during this epidemic. The risk for a city or town's water supply becoming infected with cryptosporidium lingers as some municipalities do not check their water for this parasite at all. Wisely, New York City has been testing its water supply regularly for this parasite since 1992 as part of its water safety monitoring program.
In most cases, geese excrement cannot cause bodily harm to people unless it's inhaled or ingested. Children are more at risk for accidental ingestion of Canada geese feces since they usually play directly on the beach. Most healthy people infected with cryptosporidium have extended diarrhea and other symptoms associated with cryptosporidium, which usually dissipate with time if no other GI problems are present. This infection can become serious if untreated since dehydration can set in. As a result, if people have GI distress for more than a couple of days, they need to see their health care provider. Parazyne, an herbal medication used to treat water-borne parasitic infection, may be recommended.
Some geographic areas with high numbers of geese have developed plans to reduce the number of flocks. Methods include startling the birds with loud noises, removing nesting material if no eggs are present in the nest, and relocating geese by trained animal personnel.
Two recently completed studies characterized E.coli in goose feces found in urban environments. In a Fort Collins, Colorado study, the overall prevalence of pathogenic E. coli in Canada goose feces was found to be 25 (Kullas, et al, 2002). Four general potentially pathogenic E. coli and two virulence factors (the ability to produce disease) were identified. One virulence factor is known to produce severe diarrhea, while the other is associated as a causative agent of infantile meningitis. In this Fort Collins study, researchers also quantified the amount of feces in parks, estimating that a person taking a one-mile walk in a park was likely to physically come in contact, on the bottom of his or her shoes, with 4-8 piles of feces that contained virulence determinants. A second study, a year-long national survey in New York, Wisconsin, Washington, Oregon and California (Clark et al, unpublished) resulted in findings that were similar to the Colorado study. Together, the two studies suggest that Canada goose feces do pose a risk to humans.
Goose-human conflict is when humans have complaints about geese. Most complaints are from residents and businesses frustrated with goose droppings, usually on specific sites, such as lawns, beaches, docks, sidewalks, and golf courses. Occasionally, geese nest in inappropriate sites, such as shrubbery, near buildings or parking lots where they become aggressive toward people who enter the territory around the nest. Canada geese may also cause damage to agricultural crops through consumption or trampling.
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