WILDER SIDE OF OAKLAND COUNTY
Canada Geese have a thriving love affair with Oakland County. That is not surprising as one fact is without dispute: Oakland County is a premier goose habitat. This is not because nature made it that way. We are inviting geese by our passionate love for lawns.
Glaciers sculpted our landscape some 11,000 years ago, creating thousands of lakes and ponds, but it is our present day habit of how we maintain our lawns, coupled with the presence of golf courses and waterside green spaces, that create habitat ideal for the proliferation of the species.
Canada Geese numbers are smaller on the wilder, more wooded side of Oakland County, However, the story is very different in many suburban and urban landscapes where their numbers soar.
In the world of nature, geese feed on aquatic vegetation, succulents, forbs, seeds, and sedges; however, fresh green lawn grass provides an easily digestibility all you can eat salad bar alternative. In Oakland County those salad bars are everywhere, and are “re-stocked” with each mowing.
Take a spring walk at Addison Oaks County Park or the Pontiac Lake State Recreation Area. Those parks scream to geese, “Land, Eat, and Nest!” Which they do, for the closely cropped grassy areas are seductively attractive to the geese.
Woodlands and shrubby fields hide predators, which is obviously a huge deterrent. Golf course style landscapes do not hide predators, so for the goose the choice is easy: live in the “salad bar” with a clear line of sight.
When it comes to selecting the nesting site, it’s all about opportunity and competition. Many geese select the edge of the grassy landscape and nest amidst cattails, while others may choose the base of a large tree. Some geese are attracted to artificial nesting platforms designed for other creatures or even small green areas in parking lots. Every now and then a goose forgets their ground nesting habits and selects a standing tree stump, or a flat rooftop.
In Washtenaw County, I discovered one goose family in an ultra-secure site. They set up house-keeping in a closely cropped grassy area of a prison immediately adjacent to the 21,000 acre Waterloo State Recreation Area. Those newly hatched jail-bird goslings roam surrounded by high fencing topped with razor sharp concertina wire.
On the wilder side of Oakland County some geese discover five-star living and build a nest on top of a muskrat lodge. It’s a great lookout point to detect approaching predators, and the surrounding water offers a measure of protection.
Geese do have predators. The Eastern coyotes, who have adapted to the goose abundance, trying for eggs or goslings. Do I hear a cheer for the coyote?
But regardless of the number of predators, or our wishes, if green grass beckons and water is nearby, these geese will come – for that is nature’s way.
Jonathan Schechter is the Nature Education Writer for Oakland County Government and blogs weekly about nature’s way, trails, and wildlife on the Wilder Side of Oakland County.