Before you toss that bread crumb to the cute geese paddling around the cove where you've dropped anchor for the afternoon, know that water quality experts and some local residents are asking you to not feed the fowl.

Before you toss that bread crumb to the cute geese paddling around the cove where you've dropped anchor for the afternoon, know that water quality experts and some local residents are asking you to not feed the fowl.

Canada geese are becoming increasingly recognized as a potential water hazard where they flock in large groups due to their feces. That's right, Canada goose poop is an acknowledged contributor to non-point source pollution of waterways, according to government agencies ranging from the Missouri Department of Conservation (MDC) to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS).

What portion the entire population of geese contributes overall is unknown, but an individual goose is estimated to defecate anywhere from every seven minutes for the Giant Canada goose subspecies, according to the MDC — to around every 20 minutes for Canada geese in general — says a study cited by both the FWS and the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management (Bowen and Valiela 2004). The MDC uses the ICWDM as a source in its recommendations for wildlife management.

Another study cited by the ICWDM (French and Parkhurst 2009) indicates that a single Canada goose can release up to 1.5 pounds of feces each day. That would equate to 45 pounds for a flock of 30.

And these waterfowl are becoming more and more prevalent across North America after making a comeback from near extinction in the early 1900s. The Canada goose is a conservation success story — to the point that the FWS has switched from a policy for the encouragement of the species to one of control and reduction.

Estimates from the FWS Waterfowl Population Status report for 2014 put the total number of Canada geese at approximately 5 million with other groups placing the figure as high as 8 million. The Mississippi Flyway population, which includes Missouri, includes roughly 1.5 million.

According to Birds of North America (BNA) Online, the population is expanding beyond the species' original range and are becoming permanent residents of areas where they previously only stayed during the winter. The Missouri population includes both migratory and year-round Canada geese.

BNA Online also states that Canada geese are currently a problem in more than 100 urban areas in 37 states.

While they may be pretty to watch at a distance, they can be extremely destructive in large numbers.

Geese have been partially blamed for high E. coli levels at beaches in the Lake of the Ozarks State Park — along with other animals and untreated human sewage. A number of geese have been known to flock to the protected environs of state park beaches.

The Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR) — which oversees recreational water quality at state parks as well as for drinking — continues to employ management techniques that include lasers to scare them away to discourage congregations of Canada geese at Grand Glaize Beach in the local state park. Due in part to its topography, GGB has had its share of struggles with elevated E. coli levels as the sheltered cove does not have as much current pushing through it to disperse pollutants.

In a recent Lake of the Ozarks Watershed Alliance meeting, waterfront residents added their voices to concerns about the growing number of geese not just in the often quiet coves of the state park but also in the coves where they live. A few years ago, they say they would see perhaps one or two geese along the shoreline or paddling in the water. Now the few have become a flock — often being fed by the boaters that also pack their cove on summer weekends as well as some neighbors.

Residents concerned about water quality along with DNR officials ask people to not feed the geese whether it be just one or two or one of the small flocks becoming more common on the Lake. It doesn't take long for a couple of geese to turn into many more.

E. coli and other bacteria are some of the main concerns about goose feces — and that is especially of concern during warm weather. According to the ICWDM, a study of goose droppings in Colorado showed E. coli in an average of 16.7 percent of samples, but E. coli was present in 94 percent of droppings tested in June and in 2 percent of droppings in February.

In a water quality study of the Lake of the Ozarks done through LOWA, coves around the lake have as a whole largely come in under what the state defines as elevated levels for E. coli in recreational waters.

But E. coli levels can fluctuate rapidly when impacted by naturally-occurring events, such as a hard rainfall sweeping nutrients and pollutants into the water or a flock of geese hanging out in a cove for the day. And while E. coli can be very time specific, testing for the indicator bacteria is not.

It takes 24 hours for an E. coli test of water to be completed simply due to the nature of the bacteria and the chemicals used.

In DNR's monitoring of levels at state park beaches, samples are taken on Mondays or Tuesdays and results analyzed by Wednesday. They are then posted to the state's website and at the beach itself in time to help individuals and families make their decision about whether to swim there or not.

Yet the bacteria levels are by then a result of a days old sample that may by then be verging on irrelevant. At best, testing for E. coli anywhere would only show the level of bacteria 24 hours ago.

With the amount of bacteria that can come from goose feces, bacteria levels can quickly spike with a visit from a flock or, worse, accumulate into more significant levels over time from large numbers of resident geese.


Tips for reducing goose problems

Source: Missouri Department of Conservation

1. Do not feed them. Droppings from waterfowl not only pollute the water but the birds can also carry diseases. Geese can also become more aggressive if fed by people as they come to expect food. Most food from humans are also nutritionally inadequate and may be harmful for geese.

2. Create barriers along the water. The geese prefer ground along the water that is easy for them to walk in and out of for food and rest. A short fence or taller vegetation discourages geese from using the area. Geese don't like taller native prairie grasses because they cannot see over it. They are also less palatable to geese for eating.

3. Chase away or otherwise harass the geese. These waterfowl prefer areas with minimal disturbances especially before breeding and nesting season from January through March. Once is not enough as persistence is the key, but this technique will be ineffective from mid-June to early July when the birds molt and are unable to fly.


Go to for more tips on dispersing Canada geese.