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.

22 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.

      • Roy Bosma says:

        I believe goose poop is a concern. I live in the Okanagan area of BC and our beaches r infested. A lot of it gets into the water. It is also air borne and spread further by mowing. Any of you that have read this article know how dangerous it can be. I believe a cull and or an approved hunting process should b put in place to safely controll these geese.

    • Cindy Spalsbury says:

      Quit mowing! Geese love open spaces because they can see if predictors are approaching.

  5. Dante says:

    You forgot to mention as the droppings decompose into dust then a gust of wind
    comes and kicks up that dust into your sinuses and lungs as you breathe.
    Geese are the main reason I do not play golf anymore in Northeast due to lack of predators. Geese usually congregate
    at municipal golf courses, school yards and parks that for some reason do not chase away.
    I cannot afford to play at courses that keep the geese away and do not use state parks due to the massive amount of
    droppings. I also stopped consuming clams and oysters because heavy storm runoff pollutes the bay. State park swimming advisories
    most likely last longer due to dropping runoff with heavy rainfall. I strongly believe W. Nile virus proliferates in the larvae that form in puddles
    containing droppings. Scientific research will have to prove me wrong on that.

  6. Dante says:

    Move to southeast is a possible solution. Gators are the only natural predator.

  7. Dante says:

    Why are there so many now? I do not remember the large numbers we see these days from 40 years ago.

  8. My daughter and son in law live next to Miller Park Lake in Bloomington, IL…they have fifty Canadian Geese that live on the lake and also come into their yard and neighbors around them…This a very active park with people walking around the lake with their children and dogs…The unhealthy sight of geese feces is everywhere…on Lake Dr., our driveway on Van Schoick St and the trail around the Lake off of Tanner St…the geese have made it an obstacle course to try and walk and fish around the lake…I am afraid someone will get deathly sick when they shoot off the 4th of July fireworks that Bloomington has every year…people will be putting their blankets on the grass where the geese have been letting loose of their feces…not a pretty sight to say the least…One neighbor believes their dog got sick and died because of inhaling and walking on the feces…We need to desperately get rid of the geese at Miller Park.PP

  9. Melis says:

    Mowed lawns are big goose attractors. If you want to discourage geese, you have to stop mowing! That is the worst thing you can do in that situation!!!

  10. Mo says:

    ALL fecal matter (even your own…no offense), contains pathogens, even possibly e. Coli and salmonella. That is why we are cautioned to wash our hands thoroughly after using the bathroom. Therefore this is is true for all birds, songbirds, ducks, pigeons, seagulls, etc., and, of course, geese. The major difference is the volume of feces left behind by flocks of geese. It is unsightly, but not a major health problem.
    Anytime humans come into contact with any animals and/or their feces, hand washing is advised (this is also why dogs probably shouldn’t sleep in your bed, but that’s a debate for another day). Shoes should be left outside the door, if possible. Whether it is a trip to the lake to feed the ducks, or a visit to a petting zoo, or using a restroom, proper hygiene is important to avoid transferring sickness to yourself. Supervise your kids so that they have fun communing with the animals, but keep their hands away from their faces and make sure to clean up afterwards. This should keep you and your family in good health. Babies, elderly or immunocompromised people should take extra care, or maybe just skip the visit with the animals.
    (PS – We live on a farm and we adore our animals. They aren’t nasty or dirty, but they can’t help their circumstances. We hang out with our baby goats and ride our horses and hug our dogs. But there are “Wash your hands” signs by each entry door, along with a place to leave shoes outside.

  11. Toby says:

    I have a Canada goose problem here in the UK… for years my guys and I would have dodgy stomachs for 2-3 days after cutting the grass by the lake and we’re big strong men….once we got rid off the geese the problem went.

    There is no two ways about it, they shit a lot and it’s toxic… plus if you don’t cull them, you’ll end up with a flock that grows exponentially.

    I know dogs can pick up nasty conditions but the question is, are horses liable to getting bugs from contaminated grass?

  12. Rod Kalune says:

    How are golf courses handling the influx of Canadian geese droppings in the 11 western states of the US.
    Thank you,
    Rod

  13. robert mccorry says:

    i have called the dept of conservation and they have issued me a permit to shoot these geese. i do have to keep a record and fill it our and mail it to the dept of conservation at the end of august. i am required to use a shot gun and i have killed 12 birds so far. they did say if i could bury them which i am doing. this will ease the amount of shit that is in my yard, driveway, and of course my paddocks which the horses feed. if you are having a major problem maybe contacting your dept of conservation may eliminate the problems

  14. Walter Recher says:

    I am the Chairman of my Lake Advisory Board , looking into best practices in removal of Canada Geese, we have over 100, very bad droppings.

    Hoping to find research on impact on Lake quality and removal methods.

  15. Tara says:

    This article was an answer to my prayers! My puppy was diagnosed with Coccidia and Giardia after a routine fecal analysis and we couldn’t figure out how he had contracted them. After 2 weeks of medication, the Coccidia went away but not the Giardia. I was literally praying about it for 2 weeks (while our puppy did his second round of meditation), and I had the thought to “google” of goose droppings could carry diseases. We have been taking our dog to an enclosed field to play fetch and it wasn’t until recently that I noticed goose droppings all over the place. (We live by a river and have lots of geese in the neighborhood). So, needless to say, we won’t be taking him back to that park. I think it’s important for dog owners to know that this is a real risk!

  16. Jill Siner says:

    VERY informative. Didn’t realize the dangers, not only for people but our dogs too are put at risk when Canada Geese are present on our beaches and gardens. Thanks for the info.

  17. God bless you I am a fan of walking barefoot on my bay beach and have to walk around geese poop in and out of water my town of fair hope prides itself with geese and duck ponds what can be done to stop pollution on the beach

  18. Judith benson says:

    I live close to a marsh where Canada geese congregate to eat, preen and drink. This year they have left a greenish black solid layer of 3xcrement behind. Can any plant grow in it or will it become a bare patch when the water dries up (which it’s doing as I write)?

Leave a Reply to Al S. Louisville, Ky Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *