How to Get Away From an Angry Flock of Geese That’s Harassing You

The humble Canada goose is many things: It’s one of the birds a person in North America is most likely to encounter while walking or hiking. It’s also a triumph of wildlife conservation & a species that can be an entry point for rethinking your relationship to the natural world, if you let it. It also happens to be a frequent star of the “animal attack” video genre, a blaring local suburban nuisance bird, & fairly intimidating when aggravated. Knowing a bit more about geese & their lives will make it much easier to be a good neighbor. Here’s how to avoid getting harassed by a goose—& exactly what to do if one tries to come at you full force.

Why are there so many geese? Thank suburban sprawl.

There didn’t used to be so many giant Canada geese in the US. In fact, these geese were thought to be extinct in the mid 1900s, says Scott Beckerman, a wildlife biologist & Illinois State Director of the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services program. That there are now so many is a “truly a wildlife management success story,” Beckerman tells SELF.

Giant Canada geese evolved near s&bars & love manicured grass near bodies of water. So geese are more than happy to make a home in common sites such as golf courses, playing fields, & the retention ponds often required of suburban developments. Once a goose-friendly habitat has been created, it’s difficult to remediate.

Urban & suburban environments provide year-round food & shelter with few predators, so these geese, which were historically migratory birds, now travel much less. Birds that only leave a site for a few weeks a year are called “resident birds,” & they scare less easily than migratory birds, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife. For example, in Chicago, Beckerman says, geese will stay put until late January, when freezing weather finally forces them south to open water & food. But after just a couple weeks, they’re usually back.

In other words, geese are exceedingly canny birds, & they’ve made their homes in & around human development. And when geese lay eggs in close proximity to people—say, near a picnic area at a ball field—conflicts can happen more regularly.

How do I avoid a conflict with a goose that seems angry?

First, for everyone’s sake, don’t feed the geese. This is Beckerman’s top piece of advice & it’s echoed by the ODW. Being fed by humans reduces the animals’ fear of people & makes them more likely to hang around well-traveled spaces, Beckerman says. It’s also just bad for them: The food humans typically give to geese, like popcorn or bread, don’t constitute a balanced diet & can contribute to wing deformities. Feeding geese also attracts more geese, contributing to overcrowding & possible disease spread.

Fortunately, according to Beckerman, “conflicts with [giant] Canada geese are not all that common. And they are seasonal in nature.” Incidents of aggressive geese behavior toward humans occur overwhelmingly during nesting season in the spring, Beckerman says. This is when g&ers (male geese) can become aggressive; they may feel threatened & try to keep people away from their nests. (Female geese may also become aggressive but males will do so first.) The nesting season for giant Canada geese occurs in March & April, depending on the severity of the winter, he explained, so it’s important to be especially mindful of geese when spending time outdoors during this time of year. If a goose begins to honk, hiss, or slap its wings, it’s trying to get you to move away.

I ignored the goose’s warnings. Now what?

While it’s intimidating to be hissed at by an angry, 10-pound descendent of dinosaurs, it’s important that you don’t show fear.

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