Goose-Stepping Across the Road

Why did the goose cross the road?
To get a gander at the other side.

These days, it is hard to believe that the Canada goose was nearly extinct in the lower forty-eight. I mean, they are everywhere now. In the wild, like the pictured Yellowstone scene above, the grasses stand much taller. Affording coyotes cover to sneak up through and snatch a gosling or two. Their favorite habitat now seems to be the lawns around American office parks, especially the ones with a water feature. They love the unobstructed field-of-views afforded by closely cut grass. Plus, they find it good to eat. They takeover these grounds, be spoil them with their droppings (Did you know that an adult goose drops the same amount as an adult human?) and in breeding season become aggressively territorial, threatening pets, children and even adult humans, like me.

Like I said, the Canada goose has gone from endangered to nuisance. Two things have led to this turnaround, the suspension of DDT use and Seney National Wildlife Refuge. Like with Bald eagles, the introduction of DDT into the environment had the side effect of thinning egg shells, making them too fragile. Its removal from use, eventually reversed this trend. Seney is located in Michigan’s eastern UP and after years of vacationing in this area, I first visited it last year. Its first and arguably most successful rehabilitation program was the Canada goose. Seney is basically a swamp, but ponds were dredged to create better habitat and corn was fed to the geese. From these humble beginnings the present burgeoning US goose population sprang. 

I find this story to be a lesson in unintended consequences. No one intended to wipeout the Canada goose with DDT. Likewise, no one foresaw them taking over American lawns. Nowadays we are wrestling with bigger issues, the issue of global warming or climate change. We may yet again, rise to this challenge, likely only in the nick-of-time. When we do, which I believe we will, the unintended consequences of our actions are anyone’s guess.

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