By liz west (Flickr: geese in flight) [CC-BY-2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

by Liz West / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 2.0

Last year the internet was amused to discover what Canadians have known for a long time: that Canada geese, the birds that share our country's name and steal our country's seeds every spring, can get pretty scary. The video of a hapless bald businessman fending off an aggressive bird with only a commuter newspaper on a nondescript path revealed the goose's true nature – territorial, haughty, and weirdly intense.

Add in the dangerous bacteria harboured in the aforementioned droppings, the birds' propensity for flying into jet engines, and you start understanding why the National Post called Canada geese the continent's “most hated bird.” And it's not just humans that need to feel wary. Check out this video of a Canada goose in a zoo in Wichita, Kansas, attacking a 450-pound Gorilla.

How dangerous are Canada geese? While there have been no confirmed mass fatalities from Canada geese strikes on commercial or military aircraft (certainly none as destructive as the starling strike that downed a commercial flight in Boston in 1960, killing 60 people), the famous ditching of a US Airways jet in the Hudson River in 2009 was the result of a collision with a flock of the big grey and black honkers. Lots of airports and governments have started Canada goose culls to keep the birds out of the engines and keep planes in the sky.

 

The confrontational beak and wing-flap attacks of the geese in the videos above very rarely inflict much actual damage beyond the pride and sense of well-being of the afflicted parties. Much more worrisome is the cryptosporidiosis you could contract from coming in to contact with Canada goose feces. Over 100 people died in the early 90s when Milwaukee's municipal water system was contaminated by the parasite that causes the illness, and much greater awareness of the risks have dramatically decreased the likelihood of it ever happening again. Stepping in some poop on a boardwalk isn't really too dangerous for healthy people, but the elderly or those with immune system disorders should be careful.

 

With so many Canada geese on the ground and in the sky, you'd think that maybe you could take matters into your own hands and de-goosify a little. But no. Yes, you can hunt Canada geese in certain jurisdictions with a license, but under the Migratory Bird Convention Act, killing, harming, or interfering with the nesting habitat of Canada geese without one could net you a fine of $5,000-10,000. Airports and wildlife authorities work together to control bird activity, but vigilante bird-braining will cost you huge if you get caught. If you are lucky enough to get your hands on Canada goose meat, you'll enjoy what is apparently dark, smokey fowl.

 

They look great flying in a big V above us and their honking can strike up a feeling of patriotic melancholy, but Canada geese can be trouble. Get caught on tape facing their wrath, and your shame might make you famous.

 

Next up in our series on dangerous Canadian icons: the beaver.


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