Canada Goose

The migratory Canada goose that winters in Virginia breeds primarily in Northern Quebec. Resident geese breed statewide. Generally, migrant geese begin to arrive in Virginia the last part of September and continue through November.

Fresh, open water ponds are necessary for a successful goose program. In some areas, the best site to locate a pond will be in or near an existing wetland. Before any design or construction begins, an on- site inspection by the US Army Corps of Engineers (COE) and/or the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) is necessary to delineate existing wetlands and to determine how the pond will affect the area. If the project requires a wetland permit, a “joint permit application” must be submitted to the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC). VMRC coordinates the permit process with the local, state, and federal authorities. Approval and comment from these agencies is required before construction starts.

Ponds must be a minimum of 2-3 surface acres in size and managed similar to those for dabbling ducks. The larger the pond, the more attractive it is. Ponds managed as sanctuaries are the most successful when located near an occupied dwelling for surveillance. Where possible, ponds should be located in open fields on a northwest to southeast axis to provide a “landing strip” effect for the birds. Tree lines should be 300 feet or further away. However, shoreline trees on ponds over three acres are permissible, if flight lines are provided to the pond paralleling prevailing winds and the opposite shoreline is clear of trees 300 feet beyond. The open areas allow the birds to survey the area for predators on their fly over. Low-growing shrubs along one quarter of the shoreline may be planted to provide food and cover for other wildlife. In addition, the shrubs work as a wind break for the geese. Shrubs such as button-bush, bayberry, and swamp willow may be planted.

An area encircling the pond/impoundment 50-100 feet wide should be planted with the same ladino clover/orchard grass mix as the dike but at 1/2 the rate. This strip will provide additional grazing/resting area and nesting cover in the spring. Mow annually in August.

Where ponds are located in agricultural fields, green cover crops should be interspersed with corn and bean stubble. Six to eight rows of standing corn in the center of fields will provide an additional food source during snow cover.

Nesting islands may be constructed to encourage use by resident geese. Islands should be planted with a permanent tall grass cover and/or shrub mix.