The Canada goose is one of North America’s most iconic creatures.
That classic migratory V pattern, the honking, the…well, the goose poop everywhere—the Canada goose is an emblem. But thanks to human intervention, the goose population has risen, and humans have largely decided the Canada goose is annoying. Denver is the latest to come to the conclusion that maybe some of these geese are better off—for us, not them—as food.
Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, significant hunting of the Canada goose brought its population levels down so low that some subspecies were actually feared to have gone extinct. Then a few things happened. For one, conservation protections put in place stopped excess hunting of the goose. The spread of the suburbs provided the birds with simply outstanding habitats: short, delicious grass. And in much of the Northeast and Midwest, people eradicated any natural predators (grey wolves, bears, mountain lions) that the species once had.
As a result, over the past few decades the Canada goose population has swelled. Nobody’s exactly sure how many there are; somewhere in the millions, certainly. The behavior of many of these geese changed: they stopped their annual migrations, and simply became permanent residents of cities and suburbs. Why move?
Geese are an annoyance, sometimes. They poop a lot, which has been linked to contamination of some water sources. There’s also the possibility that geese can transmit disease, though that seems to be a relatively minor concern. Mostly, for parks administrators, the birds are extremely annoying. They poop everywhere, and don’t scare easily. They can also be very aggressive, especially around their nests.
Culling is a common solution. But the city of Denver announced that its cull of urban geese—2,200 in total—will be processed and donated to the hungry. This strategy has been used with other overpopulated species as well, like white-tailed deer in Pennsylvania. But is Canada goose any good to eat?
A 2011 story in the Atlantic concludes that Canada goose can be delicious: rich and gamey in the way of most wild animals (deer included). Apparently it’s best to hunt them in the fall, when they’ve fattened up, but even lean goose meat can be ground for burgers and sausages. So, sure, good work, Denver. Eat the goose.