There are now about 250,000 geese in southern Ontario.
City officials say access to abundant food and open water means the population could double every three to five years.
What they don't say is that the Ministry of Natural Resources created the problem in the first place by introducing geese into southern Ontario -- not their natural habitat -- for hunters.
City officials say geese are prolific producers of fecal waste, defecating every six minutes while feeding, causing enough damage in some parks to warrant reconstruction of entire fields.
Geese increase the risk of botulism in birds and contribute to poor water quality.
The birds' aggressive behaviour increases the risk of injury to the public. (Ever been bitten by a goose?)
Geese are so prevalent in some parks that they prevent users, particularly children, from enjoying public green space.
To control their population, the city:
Oils the eggs of a number of bird species, including Canada geese, to prevent them from hatching. (Last year the city treated 461 goose eggs in 121 nests. The egg-oiling program in High Park has reduced the number of geese from 1,500 in 97 to about 100.)
Uses trained border collies and birds of prey to round up and scare off geese at parks, golf courses and marinas.
Puts up signs and distributes pamphlets that encourage park users not to feed the geese.
The problem with most control measures is that these tactics may only succeed in moving geese from one green space to another.
THE RADICAL SOLUTIONS
Establish "goose camps" where birds can be kept until they migrate.
Relocate the birds to game farms.
Slaughter them and give them to food banks.
...AND THE PROBLEMS WITH THE RADICAL SOLUTIONS
Relocation costs $10,000 per 1,500-2,000 geese.
There aren't enough sanctuaries in southern Ontario to accommodate all the unwanted birds.
Geese are full of lead and unsafe to eat, but even if they were safe, when they are moulting and not flying they lose their chest muscles. They'd need to be held for a while to fatten them up, which would cost a fortune.
Geese love short turf. Allowing grass to grow would discourage them from feeding in parks, as would planting varieties of grass that geese don't eat.
Replacing open spaces near water with plants and shrubs would reduce the number of desirable nesting sites and encourage birds to fly to more natural habitat further north.
Avoid installing turf areas and sports fields near open water.
WHAT NATURALISTS SAY
"To me there's no problem at all. Too few geese, too many people. But that's just me. The feces that goes out the other end is basically grass depleted of a few nutrients. It offends some people (and) we hear about all these diseases associated with it, but I've never known of a single person who's caught anything from it. I remember once a camera crew went down to the waterfront to photograph all this feces, but what they actually shot were the (dirt) plugs the parks department removed from turf to aerate it."
Barry Kent MacKay, naturalist
"It's not the numbers that are the problem. The parks are most used when migrant birds fly in to moult. They can't fly and want to be near the water for food, and we've created waterfronts that are five-star hotels. Governments want a quick fix to a difficult problem, and they're not going to get it. The Canada goose is an icon that people see as representing what Canada is all about. But in order for governments to get public opinion on their side, they refer to them as rats on wings to try to undermine people's love of these birds."
Liz White, Animal Alliance of Canada
With research by Nadia Daniell