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Are You Killing Geese With ‘Kindness’?

Written by Lindsay Pollard-Post | August 18, 2014

A kind, elderly man recently called PETA’s Community Animal Project (CAP) for help after he found an injured Canada goose on the side of the road. The goose was unable to bear weight on one of his legs, and the well-meaning (but misguided) man wanted to try to “rehabilitate” the bird himself. Good thing he called us! Canada geese, like most birds, are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, and it’s illegal to try to care for injured wildlife yourself. We persuaded the man to let us take the goose to a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, and the goose is now receiving treatment for an infected wound.

Canada Goose

Goose Wing

Despite their imposing size, geese are very vulnerable and fragile animals. Picking up litter—especially carelessly discarded fishing line—from rivers and lakes where geese swim will prevent them from ingesting or becoming entangled in trash. It’s also important to cut apart six-pack rings (including the inner diamonds), rinse out your recyclables, and rinse out and flatten cans. Slowing down and watching out for geese and their goslings while driving near waterways will also save lives, as will asking officials to ban fishing in areas where water birds frequent.

And please, don’t feed geese. Geese who are artificially fed can quickly develop “angel wing,” a condition in which their wing joints become twisted and deformed as a result of consuming too much protein and sugar (from being given processed foods, such as bread, crackers, and cereals). Unable to fly or migrate, these frustrated and helpless geese become vulnerable to predators, cruel people, and extreme weather conditions. Most of the “injuries” PETA sees in geese are actually angel wing.

Portsmouth Goose

If you find injured or orphaned wildlife, never take it upon yourself to provide rehabilitative care for them—instead, immediately make arrangements to get them to a credentialed wildlife rehabilitator or a veterinarian for assessment and treatment. Visit our wildlife emergencies page for more tips.

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  • Avril Morton says:

    More parks or areas where geese congregate should put up signs DO NOT FEED THE GEESE and say why. I see people feed geese and ducks in James Gardens in Etobicoke. As far as I know there is no sign or it has been removed.

  • Ron Mallard says:

    Is it appropriate and helpful to provide wild birdfeed to geese in the harsh conditions of winter when the ground is covered with snow and lakes are frozen? Also, is it helpful or harmful to the survival of goslings to provide them with wild birdfeed during the early weeks of their lives? (I understand that human food is not good for wildlife; the food I am suggesting is seeds that are prepared and packaged for wild birds).

  • Yo says:

    Kerry, you are so awesome for taking the time to look out for the welfare of these innocent birds!

    How about suggesting to your park that they install coin (or credit-card!)-operated ‘bird-food’ dispensers? The visitors get their ‘feed-fix’, the birds get a great, healthy snack here and there, and the park makes a few extra bucks towards upkeep. Win-win-win!

    Once again, thanks for taking time out of your day to help other creatures. Noble.

  • jill osment says:

    please help this lovely birds to go back to ware they fly from.

  • Yo says:

    Kerry–

    Kudos to you for taking steps to prevent problems in these birds!

    Another thought–make everybody happy: suggest the park install ‘goose food’ machines which, for a quarter, will dispense a healthy handful of appropriate birdie snacks.

    This way, people get their ‘feeding fix’, the birds get to look forward to a tasty snack, and the park gets a little extra revenue. Win, win, win!!!

  • Thank you for the message pertaining to feeding geese. I have purchased large bags of cereal (Cheerios, etc) to feed the nearby geese. A park is nearby with hundreds of the beautiful animals. To think I have damaged the birds is terrible. Please let me know if this type food is harmful. Thank you again.

  • Frances Bell says:

    Thanks for telling people they need to get animals to a proper rehabilitator. I know people mean well but without experience with wildlife, more harm than good can be the end result. Incorrect diet is unfortunately a common problem when untrained people try to do something good for the animals – maybe we need to have emergency care classes for the general public so that animals are not inadvertently harmed before making it to an accredited rehabilitator.

  • joperet says:

    I knew it wasn’t appropriate to feed ducks and geese bread – it’s good to be shocked why!

  • Anne Grice says:

    I wish people would stop harming these birds as its common knowledge never to feed human crappie foods to wild life!

  • Kerry says:

    Thank you for posting this article! I was unaware of the dangers of ‘human food’ for wild geese and waterfowl. I live near a park that has a lake and many wild Canadian Geese and ducks have made their homes there. I frequently witness well-meaning people feeding the ducks and geese crackers, bread and other kinds of ‘human food’. I immediately contacted my city administrator to have signs placed at the lake requesting people refrain from feeding these wild birds.

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