Geese might be 'too smart' for wolf silhouettes to work as deterrent

If someone says they've seen a wolf in Windsor, they're probably telling the truth. 

The City of Windsor has installed two-dimensional wolf silhouette cut outs at Great Western Park along the riverfront in an attempt to deter geese — but it might not be as effective as the city hopes.

Mary Baruth from the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville said geese eventually will ignore the wolf silhouettes.

"You have to move them every few days ... they get used to them," said Baruth. "They're smart birds."

Baruth said if the silhouettes were moving, or on a spring base, they would look more realistic and might be more effective.

James Chacko, senior manager of parks operations for the city, said other municipalities have achieved results, but recognizes that the silhouettes do need to be moved around.

"A wolf, coyote or dog is the common silhouette," said Chacko. "It's whatever the geese are accustomed to seeing."

The goose guard

According to Baruth, flocks of geese have sentries — so if you see one goose standing up in a group of geese laying down, that's the sentry or guard. 

Peter Duck/CBC

"He's observing everything around them," said Baruth. "I'm sure he just tells everyone else 'Those things over there, they haven't moved in two days.'"

Other goose deterrents

At Jack Miner, Baruth said they use fox silhouettes. She's also seen silhouettes of eagles and owls, as well as floating alligators. 

Baruth said the silhouettes are similar to a scarecrow in their intention, but even crows get used to scarecrows. 

"You're going to pay somebody to go move these wolves around. How much are you paying them to do that?"

According to Chacko, the silhouettes were cheap to make, using leftover plywood and rebar from other projects.

Chacko said the city's goose-poop trail cleaning machine has been successful, but the two paths in Great Western Park were highlighted as an area with a lot of problems.

"This is our first attempt to see if it works out."

Chacko said there's been noticeable improvement since the silhouettes were set out on Monday, but this is not going to be a long-term or widespread solution.

"This is going to move them from a specific area, a small zone," said Chacko. "We're trying to push them to an area where it's easier for us to maintain."

Four wolf silhouettes have been put on the waterfront so far, but the city has plans to install more in other locations.