They’ve been camping out on walkways and lawns for the past week. They may have honked at you as you walk to class. And if you’re especially unlucky, you may have stepped in their green-colored droppings.
Canada geese have arrived on campus, where they have especially been spotted congregating between Cattell Library and Mitchell Hall. In some cases, geese have completely blocked sidewalks and they’ve also been the targets of harassment from some students who have attempted to chase them.
Although they may just be stopping by on their way south, there’s a chance the geese could become a familiar sight at Malone.
According to Dr. Jeffrey Goff, professor of chemistry, not all Canada geese are migratory. He said some populations of geese stay put throughout the year in Ohio.
“It’s not fair to say that the geese we have are just migrating through and will be gone,” Goff said. “It is possible that some of the geese have just taken up residence and are going to stay here.”
Goff, who teaches ornithology, said that Canada geese are relatively well-adapted to living with humans. Unlike other birds who rely on forests for food, geese are grazers who feed on grass and other vegetation. As such, Malone presents a scrumptious target for them with its open lawns and lack of natural predators.
“It’s [like] a buffet without predators,” Goff said.
Goff said part of the reason Canada geese are so prevalent in Ohio is because the environment is well-suited for them. Geese like large bodies of water, and there are plenty of lakes in Ohio for them to take advantage of.
[pullquote]“It’s [like] a buffet without predators,” Goff said.[/pullquote]
Goff said the fact that Malone doesn’t contain any bodies of water could be a sign that the geese will not be staying on campus because they usually make nests around ponds and lakes. However, Goff also said he has seen ducks make nests on campus, so he wouldn’t be surprised if the geese did the same.
“I have no doubt that sooner or later they will lay eggs on campus,” he said.
Goff said geese can be prolific reproducers whose numbers can balloon in just a short period of time.
“By the time [the current] freshman class graduates, we could have hundreds of geese on campus [whose] intention is to stay here,” he said.
If geese do lay eggs and decide to call Malone home, their presence—and the problems it brings—could become a permanent fixture on campus.
“This is what we’ll have in the future,” Goff said. “We will have a growing goose problem on this campus if we’re not in some way addressing it.”
Since Canada geese are protected by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, it’s illegal to hunt them out of season or destroy their eggs without a permit. According to Goff, methods that can be taken to scare away geese include using dogs, scarecrows and lasers.
Mute swans can also be introduced to scare away geese, but they are even more aggressive than the geese themselves and require a large body of water.
Director of Physical Plant Jim Palone has thought of ways to get rid of the geese, but he said none have seemed particularly humane.
“If you talk to businesses who have this problem, there’s very little you can do that’s truly humane to remove them,” Palone said.
According to Palone, geese have become far more prevalent on campus in recent years.
“We used to have just a few every year, and they would stay in a small area and they would pretty much leave and not be a bother at all,” he said. “For some reason, these last couple years, the population has grown and they seem to be hanging around longer and longer.”
In the past, Palone said geese have showed up on campus in early fall and have usually left by early winter. He hasn’t heard any complaints from students so far, but he has heard complaints from grounds and service employees.
“It’s going to get to be a problem.,” he said. “Thankfully at this point it’s short-lived.”
According to a publication from the Department of Natural Resources, Canada geese were almost completely eliminated from Ohio by 1900 due to hunting. The Division of Wildlife actually reintroduced them to the state in 1956.
By the year 2000, the Division of Wildlife estimated there were 84,000 Canada geese in Ohio.
Students who have had to navigate their way through gaggles of geese offered their perspective on the latest group of feathered residents.
Junior English major Sarah Halstead said she is cautious toward the geese because of her experiences with them back home.
“It’s a little frightening,” Halstead said. “They seem friendly, but they will attack you.”
Sophomore early childhood education major Jacquelyn Canonico said she wasn’t bothered by the geese themselves, but rather by the reactions of some students toward them.
“I get annoyed with the people that mess with them,” Canonico said. “They’re just here, and if you leave them alone, they’re not going to do anything.”
For now, only time will tell whether this year’s geese are just stopping by or will stay on campus for good. In the meantime, be on the lookout for them the next time you’re walking to class—and watch where you walk.