Whether football, baseball, soccer or lacrosse, nothing ruins the condition of a playing field or a campus faster than a flock of resident Canada geese.
A single Canada goose can eat up to 3 lbs. of turf and defecate up to 2 lbs. per day, rendering carefully tended fields and grounds not only a mess but also a potential slip and fall hazard to players, students, staff and visitors.
As Canada geese have multiplied from thousands a few decades ago to over 4 million, with a 15-fold increase in the number living in urban areas, the issue has required the attention of companies specializing in non-lethal geese control.
As such, at least one EPA-approved repellent technique has helped to increase athletic field usability, improved safety and hygiene and saved over $10,000 annually in clean up, maintenance and repair.
When about 100 Canada geese overran an athletic field used for soccer and baseball in Boston, Mass., they not only ate grass down to the roots, requiring premature reseeding, but also left an overabundance of goose droppings, according to Chris Murphy, owner of Atlantic Goose Management, a Boston, Mass.-based goose control specialist.
“Despite sending a city maintenance crew to clean the mess, up to twice a day, with brooms, trash cans and power sweepers, parents were complaining about kids coming home with geese feces on their clothes,” says Murphy. “Some athletic events had to be canceled or postponed because the field wasn’t in playing condition.”
The problem has intensified because instead of flying south each fall and north each summer, braving predators along the way, Canada geese have found paradise in fields, campuses, parks and lawns.
These offer abundant food, hydration and nesting opportunities where predators are virtually nonexistent.
So how can the flock be effectively managed without harming the geese?
There have been many attempts from fake coyotes and real dogs to strobe lights, sirens and noisemakers.
But all fail to be truly effective because they're either too costly, unable to present a continuous deterrent or offer a threat without consequence, which Canada geese soon learn to ignore.
Rather than resorting to drastic means to protect their playing fields and campuses, a growing number of athletic directors and groundskeepers are fighting back with an eco-friendly, EPA-approved goose repellent that uses a naturally-occurring, environmentally-safe compound called anthranquinone.
This spray-on solution is odorless, waterproof and does not harm humans, vegetation or wildlife.
It works in two ways, the first by sending a visual warning.
When sprayed on turf, the compound absorbs ultraviolet light, something the geese can see even though humans can't.
This sends a visual signal to the geese that something is wrong with their food.
Secondly, it gives the geese a stomachache.
When the geese sample treated turf they experience a harmless, but effective digestive irritation, reinforcing the message that there's something wrong with the food.
The combined effect teaches geese to recognize and avoid grassy areas treated with the compound.
The Canada geese "move out" in search of a better food source.
“Unlike dogs or other temporary tactics, anthranquinone continuously protects playing fields, campuses, parks and other spaces from geese because it teaches them to avoid treated grassy areas the way you would avoid a restaurant that gave you a bad case of stomach upset,” explains Joseph Tortola, founder of Northeast Ohio Geese Management, a Canton, Ohio-based goose control consultant. “The treated grass looks different to them so they avoid it on sight.”
Grassy areas are typically treated several times a year with the goose repellent to warn off Canada geese familiar with it and to teach new ones to stay away.
It can also be used like a "biological fence" to herd geese away from playing fields, and is water-insoluble so it will not wash away.
After groundskeepers at the Boston, Mass. athletic field failed to scare off their Canada geese with plastic coyotes or drive them off with lawn mowers.
A goose-control specialist applied the EPA-approved goose repellent to the turf.
“After applying the repellent, the geese developed a dislike for the turf and stopped coming,” says Murphy. “That eliminated the geese-related turf damage, ‘dropping’ clean up and parental complaints,” says Murphy.
According to Murphy, the athletic field is now in great shape and has not had to cancel or postpone an athletic event due to goose droppings since.
“The athletic field is saving at least $10,000 annually from reduced turf damage, reseeding and maintenance cleanup due to eliminating the goose problem,” says Murphy.