CONTACT: Sebastian D’Elia, (908) 527-4419


Public reminded that handouts for geese are illegal in County parks

Elizabeth –Union County is stepping up its efforts to reduce the number of geese in County parks. More signs have been posted informing park visitors that it is illegal to feed geese and all wildlife in the parks, and County employees will partner with volunteers to distribute new brochures about the law.

Canada geese normally live in pairs or small family groups. When people feed them, they gather in large numbers. Since each Canada goose deposits an average of one pound of droppings every day, the handouts create an enormous problem in County parks.

Handouts also harm the geese. A diet of bread and other human food causes poor nutrition and weight gain, leading to disease, early death, and “angel wing,” a deformation that prevents the geese from flying.

Goose handouts also harm the fish, turtles, frogs, and other wildlife that live in County lakes. Runoff from a carpet of lakeside droppings can overload a lake with nitrogen. That leads to algae blooms, and to reduced oxygen levels in the water. A massive fish-kill can result.

Another contributor to algae blooms is food thrown into the lakes for geese. The uneaten food sinks to the bottom and decomposes. It has also been linked to avian botulism, which has killed dozens of ducks in County lakes.

The ordinance prohibiting the feeding of wildlife in County parks was passed by the Freeholder Board in 1999. Since then, the County has conferred on goose management with state and local officials and with the humane organization Geese Peace. The County has also supported the efforts of Geese Peace to educate the public in Union County parks.

In several County parks, shoreline habitats have been modified with native plantings to help keep runoff from polluting the lakes. The native plants are less attractive to geese, which prefer short-mowed grass. Similar plantings have been installed along the Rahway River in Cranford.

In some parks, pyrotechnics and trained border collies have been used to chase the geese away. Another method used in County parks is to treat goose eggs in their nests, to prevent them from hatching. This is conducted by special permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Property owners can help discourage geese in their neighborhoods by replacing part of a large lawn with native shrubs or trees. In addition to discouraging geese, native plants grow attractively without mowing, watering, or applying herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers.

In past years geese have been rounded up in County parks. Their meat has been donated to food banks.

To volunteer in Union County’s public education efforts regarding Canada geese, contact the Department of Parks and Community Renewal at
or 908-527-4900.