Taking aim at our Canada geese

By Ann Kuehn - Guest columnist

In 2000, the North American population for Canada geese was estimated to be 4 to 5 million birds. One can assume in the intervening years the population has doubled.

“Branta canadensis” is a large wild bird, extremely adept at living in those populated areas which provide few natural predators and ample forage. A handsome bird with a black head and neck, white cheeks and white under-chin, and a brown body, the goose is herbivorous, preferring a fresh-water habitat.

A noisy, aggressive, pooping machine, they will stand erect, spread wings, hiss and charge if they feel themselves or their goslings threatened.

Canada geese weigh around 5-14 pounds and have, on average, a 50- to 73-inch wing span. Not to be trifled with. My neighbor does not leave his house without a large walking stick, and has been known to shoot at geese using a slingshot and hard candies.

He also has a small radio-powered boat. Lacking only a gun turret, it could be successfully launched on the adjacent pond.

The Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects Canada geese outside designated hunting/culling seasons.

A developing problem has been confrontation between the birds and aircraft. Canada geese are secondary only to the turkey vulture in damaging aircraft: 1,772 known civil airstrikes in the U.S. occurred between 1990 and 2018 with the cost in excess of $130 million.

For those so inclined, goose meat was waxed in the Atlantic magazine as “yummy…good, lean, rich meat…similar to a good cut of beef.” I’ll take their word for it. Geese in NYC parks are culled by the Department of Environmental Protection and donated to Pennsylvania food banks (one has to wonder why Philadelphia does not follow suit).

Due to the aforementioned lack of natural predators and an abundance of grass and water in urban areas, many previously migrating geese have become native, remaining throughout the year.

This was a problem for me living on Greenfield Road. Our large farm pond sported a sand beach for grandchildren. Not too much of a stretch to imagine my fury at goose poop on that beach. Armed with a broom, I would stalk nests and throw the eggs into the pond, or when particularly incensed, would chase the stupid birds on the riding lawn mower.

One afternoon my then-perhaps 17-year-old-nephew was at the house during one of my diatribes. Selecting one of Ed Kuehn’s telescopic rifles, he shot a goose. Woops! A neighbor reported it. Before the carcass could be clandestinely disposed of, there was a knock on the door.

Perhaps some of you are old enough to remember Wally Cox, the highly successful “Mr. Peepers” on a popular sitcom. Wally was often portrayed as a game warden, a huge hat surmounting his diminutive body with large round glasses peeking under the brim.

Heaven as my witness, their stood his reincarnation.

“I understand,” the gentleman intoned, “that someone on this premises shot an ‘endangered Canada goose’.”

Not wanting to compromise my nephew, I replied that I was the guilty party. For some reason, the game warden expressed disbelief. Nothing to do but call Ed Kuehn at his office.

Ed Kuehn duly appeared and confessed that he had shot the goose. Satisfied, the game warden confiscated the very expensive telescopic rifle; issued a court summons, which then necessitated hiring a lawyer, with a subsequent court appearance and a fine. I recall the experience ended up totaling around $5,000.

Moral: Stick with a slingshot and hard candies.

Ann Kuehn resides at Ohio Living Cape May in Wilmington. She she is a former resident of Sabina.

By Ann Kuehn

Guest columnist