Question: A gaggle of six geese has taken up residence in our gated community, which is built around a man-made lake. No homeowners claim them as their pets and they are roaming freely and reproducing. Our community does not have sufficient open space or common areas to accommodate the growing group. Excessive feces is a health concern, not to mention the damage to yards and plantings the geese are causing. Residents want to investigate options to control this. The property manager has stated that the geese are wild and therefore protected by law, but I’ve been told by other sources that they are not wild and likely cannot fly (and are consequently unable to exit our gated and walled community). Are there legal or regulatory restrictions against removing this type of geese? (Laurie)
Answer: It depends on the type of goose. Almost all birds native (naturally occurring) to the United States are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The MBTA prohibits the take of protected migratory bird species without prior authorization by the Department of Interior U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This includes Canada geese, which often take advantage of man-made lakes and lawns near communities. Occasionally, domesticated/feral geese such as graylag (differentiated by their plumage and morphology) can be found in the same areas.
Resident Canada goose populations (those breeding in the lower 48 states) have increased considerably since the 1990s and have expanded outside their historical breeding range in California. Conflicts between landowners and resident Canada geese have increased proportionately as a result. You’re right that man-made lakes are a big factor in attracting geese.
You can legally haze or harass waterfowl, including resident Canada geese, that are depredating on private lands. Non-lethal methods must be used to discourage depredating geese, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) advocates that landowners take proactive measures to deter Canada geese from using impacted private property. These measures can include reducing grass areas or allowing grass to grow long, use of dogs, employing visual deterrents (such as scarecrows, predator decoys, mylar flagging and balloons) and fencing or barriers. It’s also important to avoid feeding geese as that only makes the problem worse. Waterfowl hunting can be an effective deterrent in problem areas when state and local regulations allow this activity.
If the geese in your yard are domestic (see photos), the response options are different. They’re not protected as a migratory bird species and may be dealt with by local animal control offices or perhaps animal rescue groups that may be willing to assist.
Hunting ground squirrels in California
Question: I live in Modoc County where a species of ground squirrels (rodents) live and eat in the alfalfa fields. Are hunting licenses required to shoot them? And is nonlead ammo required? My feeling is that these are not game animals but would fall into the rodent family. I know that I don’t need a license to trap and or shoot rats and mice, so where do these pests stand? (Dean)
Answer: A valid California hunting license is required for the recreational taking of certain authorized nongame birds and mammals, which include species such as feral pigeons, coyotes and rodents like ground squirrels, as per California Code of Regulations Title 14, section 472.
California Fish and Game Code, section 4152 does allow an exemption for depredation purposes on private property. No hunting license is needed by property owners, tenants of the premises, employees and agents in immediate possession of written permission from the property owner to take certain nongame mammals such as ground squirrels and other rodents injuring crops and causing other property damage.
Nonlead ammunition is required when taking wildlife with a firearm anywhere in California for any purpose, whether for recreational hunting or depredation.
Carrying a knife while diving
Question: Is it legal to carry a knife for safety purposes while diving in a Marine Protected Area (MPA)? (Chris)
Answer: Except where specifically prohibited, non-extractive activities (swimming, wading, boating, diving and surfing) are allowed in MPAs. A knife is considered standard safety gear for both free and scuba divers, so carrying one on your person is not expressly prohibited while diving.
Carrie Wilson is a marine environmental scientist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week in this column. Please contact her at CalOutdoors@wildlife.ca.gov.