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What to do if you encounter an aggressive goose

Wednesday, May 26th 2021, 1:20 pm - Geese are mostly docile, and when they appear otherwise, they're often bluffing to protect young, expert says

With the warmer temperatures comes the return of geese to wetland areas of [New Brunswick].

But they aren't always welcomed by humans, especially those who like to walk or bike along Moncton's Riverside Trail.

Already this year, there have been several reports of confrontations between pedestrians on the trail and geese.

Al Hanson, head of aquatic assessment with the Canadian Wildlife Service, said it's relatively rare for geese to attack humans and most will let people pass by without incident.

But every once in a while, geese will get aggressive, something Hanson can attest to.

"Last week I was cycling by one goose, and it decided after I was by it that it was going to fly after me, and it startled me," he said.


Hanson said there are several reasons why geese are testier in the spring.

One is that they are breeding, so are likely trying to keep other geese and predators away from their nesting spots.

And once the young are born, geese will take steps to defend their brood from any potential danger.

The young and adult geese go through a period where they cannot fly in the spring, and since they're really not that great at fighting, Hanson said, they will try to appear more intimidating than they actually are.

"Geese don't have any real natural defence mechanisms like claws or teeth, so they rely mostly on aggression and trying to bluff their way," said Hanson.

"Most times you walk by a goose on the Riverfront Trail and they'll just, you know, hiss at you maybe, if that, and then walk to the side."


Hanson said the best course of action if confronted by an agitated goose, you can tell by their hiss, is to give them plenty of space, but also make yourself look like a formidable adversary.

"Don't crouch down or anything, make yourself look big," said Hanson.

"Try to convey to the goose that you're not intending to hurt it, but you are bigger than it is. And in most cases, it will back down."

Finally, keep in mind that most geese offer no trouble to humans and simply want to be left alone this time of year.

"I was at Centennial Park on Monday of this week … and there's nesting geese there that have hatched their babies," said Hanson.

"You could watch them and they weren't displaying any aggressive behaviour whatsoever."

This article was originally published for CBC News. Contains files from Information Morning Moncton.

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