The Hidden Dangers of Goose Droppings

 
goose droppings on sidewalk

One of the biggest downsides to a Canada Goose presence in your neighborhood is the gross, unsightly fecal matter they leave all over walkways. In problem areas, people often have to dance around to avoid stepping in poop! While its definitely disgusting, there’s also a hidden danger tied to goose dropping: dangerous diseases and bacteria like E Coli, Salmonella, Histoplasmosis, Campylobacter, Coccidia, and Giardia.

High concentrations of birds can render beaches and parks completely unusable. This article from Detroit Free Press highlights how Canada Goose and Seagull droppings have been a big factor in E Coli beach-front closures at Lake St. Clair. The New York Post wrote an article called “America’s Greatest threat may be Canada Goose Poop”.

Canada Geese, on average, drop between 1 to 1.5 pounds of feces every day! Hosting a population of 20 birds would be the same as having someone spread 20-30 lbs of bacteria contaminated biohazard on your lawn every day. Most people aren’t aware, but these birds can present a real threat to humans and pets alike.

Bacteria found in Goose Poop


E Coli bacteria under a microscope

E Coli

Harmless strains of E Coli already play an integral role in the human gut biome. However, harmful strains of the bacteria are most commonly associated with food contamination and food poisoning symptoms in their hosts, such as vomiting and diarrhea . Worse still, there are several virulent strains that cause gastroenteritis, urinary tract infections, neonatal meningitis, and Crohn’s disease. One strain (E. coli 0157:H7) is known to produce the Shiga Toxin, which is classified as a bioterrorism agent by the National Institute of Health. In Children and the elderly, the Shiga Toxin can lead to Hemolytic Uremic Syndrome, which can result in kidney failure and even death if not treated immediately.

E Coli is typically treated by assessing dehydration and replacing fluid and electrolytes. A course of antibiotics has been shown to shorten the course of illness and the duration of harmful E Coli bacteria in the gut and intestines. E Coli contamination is far too common and takes a heavy toll on any individual, but could prove debilitating or deadly to children and seniors.


Salmonella bacteria under a microscope

Salmonella

Salmonella causes Salmonellosis, which has results in diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps, usually within 12 to 72 hours after infection. The illness usually last from between 4 to 7 days, and most people recuperate without any treatment. However, in some cases diarrhea may be severe enough to require hospitalization. In such cases, the infection could spread from the intestines to the blood stream, and then move to other areas of the body. Failure to treat such an aggressive infection with antibiotics could result in death.

Though most cases of Salmonella infections resolve themselves without long term consequence, it may take months for bowel habits return to normal. A small number of patients develop reactive arthritis in their joints, which can become chronic. These people may also develop eye irritations and pain when urinating.


Campylobacter bacteria under a microscope

Campylobacter

While less dangerous and dramatic that E Coli and Salmonella, a Campylobacter can result in diarrhea (often bloody), abdominal cramps, and fever. It is considered the most common cause of diarrhea illness in the United States. Most people recover from Campylobacteriosis within a week but some infections can have longer term consequences. It’s estimated that between 5%-20% of people with an infection develop Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) for a limited period of time, while 1%-%5 can develop arthritis.


Histoplasmosis under a microscope

Histoplasmosis

Unlike most of the bacteria based infections above, Histoplasmosis is caused by fungal spores. Symptoms of Histoplasmosis include: Fever, Cough, Fatigue, Chills, Headaches, Chest Pain, and Body Ache. The fungal spores are often found in bird an bat feces, and infect humans after they’ve been inhaled. Histoplasmosis symptoms show after 3-17 days of infection. Symptoms last a few weeks to a month and are generally acute. However, in people with weak immune systems, it is possible for histoplasmosis to develop into a persistent lung infection that could eventually spread into other parts of the body and the central nervous system.


Coccidia under a microscope

Coccidia

Coccidiosis is an intestinal tract infection commonly found in pets that is caused by single celled organisms (protozoa) called coccidia. Adult dogs often aren’t affected by coccidiosis even when they carry coccidia. But in puppies and debilitated adult dogs, coccidia can cause severe, watery diarrhea, dehydration, abdominal distress, and vomiting. The most common coccidia is found only in dogs, but less common types are potentially infectious to humans.


Giardia under a microscope

Giardia

Giardia is a microscopic parasite that causes a diarrheal illness know as giardiasis. Common symptoms include: Diarrhea, gas, abdominal cramps, nausea/vomiting, and dehydration. Other, less common symptoms include: itchy skin, hives, swelling in the eyes and joints. Symptoms can last 1 to 2 weeks, or longer. Sometimes, symptoms appear to resolve themselves, only to come back several days or weeks later. In some cases, people and animals infected with Giardia don’t show any symptoms. In children, severe giardiasis might delay physical and mental growth, slow development, and cause malnutrition.


Goose Droppings put Families at Risk


Child Picking up Goose Droppings

Children

Children are at great risk from goose droppings for two big reasons.

  1. Their immune systems are not fully developed: Children are at much greater risk from common diseases and conditions because their bodies have not fully developed. An E Coli or Salmonella infection will knockout even a strong healthy adult, but in children the effects are severe enough to threaten organ failure and even death. Combatting a debilitating disease at a young age can also have serious developmental consequences.
  2. Children will put anything in their mouth: A young child left unsupervised for even a split second might pick up and deposit goose droppings in their mouth. This turns every walk in the park or play session in the back yard into a potential biohazard if goose droppings are present.

Seniors holding grandchildren

Seniors

Seniors have a much harder time shrugging off common illnesses than their juniors. Luckily years of life experience and wisdom usually results in caution, limiting the risk of a serious infection (unlike children). However, if an infection gets a chance to take hold, the results can be devastating. A population of Canada Geese residing at a senior living community could dramatically increase this risk.


Dog sniffing in the grass

Pets

Most healthy pets have a robust immune system. However, pets (especially dogs) enjoy exploring the world through their tongues. If you’ve ever taken your dog to a park with a goose population, you’ve more than likely had to stop your dog from quickly devouring goose droppings. Dogs can easily acquire Coccidia and Giardia from this nasty habit. Dogs might also drink water contaminated by goose droppings, magnifying that risk. Always keep you dogs on a leash to prevent them from snacking on unsanitary things, and make sure you provide them with fresh water when they are thirsty.

 
Gordon Ligon
Gordon Ligon
Gordon is the Co-Founder of Goodbye Geese, as goose control company based in Detroit, MI. He uses border collies to scare geese off of corporate, government and residential properties.

5 Comments

  1. Blazer says:

    Very informative article but a little overblown . I can see how small children could be at risk but to get infected you would literally have to ingest it. Very small probability of getting sick

  2. Vickie Roche says:

    Yes very informative and not at all overblown. I came so close to loosing 3 dogs from geese poop when I moved in with my son. They would step in it in the yard and lick their feet. As for a small child they could also walk in it or fall in it . All they have to do is touch it and then their hands go in their mouth. We step in it in the yard, parks etc and walk in our houses not realizing it is on our shoes. Small small children play and crawl in it. Yep hands and toes go in their mouths so yes they can injest it without picking it up

  3. k ward says:

    Hi, we live on a holiday park, we do not have Canada geese but do have geese that leave their droppings everywhere.
    The geese have brown necks, not sure what breed they are. All the site say that the rain will get rid of most of the droppings,
    it does not.

  4. Al S. Louisville, Ky says:

    I mow 5 acres around a pond that has a flock of 40 to 50 Canadian geese living year round. I am sure that bacteria from the goose poop is getting air born as I mow. Could infect me or my neighbors. Nasty,continuously, pooping birds.

    • Gordon Ligon says:

      Hi Al!

      *DISCLAIMER* I’m no expert on pathology, so it’s best to consult a scientist with your local DNR or Wildlife department to be sure about your risk of exposure.

      I think the biggest risk would come during the mowing, when the “poop” is flying around. After things settle down I think the risk would go down considerably. Most of this bacteria would infect you through ingesting the agent. The most like scenario for infection would be if you mowed the grass, and then went inside and made a sandwich. Just be sure to wash your hands and/or shower immediately after mowing and you’ll see less risk.

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