Tuesday, October 4, 2022

What’s with the geese that live at the mall? They like it there

Multiple pairs of Canada geese have taken up residency at Independence Mall. They return year after year and don't seem to mind the humans around them.

WILMINGTON—No amount of cement or human activity can stop these lovebirds.

Several pairs of Canada geese have taken up a yearly residency at Independence Mall. They aren’t sick and they aren’t lost — actually, they’re quite comfortable.

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“The geese are professional geese, they know what they’re doing,” Amelia Mason, owner of Skywatch Bird Rescue, said. “They’re geese for a living.”

Happy as a goose

“For whatever reason they like it,” Chris Kent said.

Kent is a wildlife biologist for N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission; he said Canada geese have been a “hot topic for many years.”

The reason being is two-fold: Canada geese don’t mind humans, and humans develop the geese’s habitat.

As someone who frequents the bench next to the geese’s prime nesting spot, Gordon McIntyre has witnessed people’s varied reactions.

“Some say, ‘I wish they would get out of the way,’ some say, ‘it’s fine,’ they like to see them,” McIntyre said. “Especially the kids.” 

Regardless, even well-intentioned patrons can cause gridlock.

“We’re getting a lot of calls about this,” Mason said. “Everybody calls to say there’s an injured goose at the mall.”

“If it’s not injured, it’s illegal for us to come relocate them and catch them. It’s considered wildlife interference.”

Back to the mall

A full-time wildlife rehabilitator, Mason has fielded hundreds of inquiries about the mall geese. Some callers think the birds are hurt, some want them gone. Still, it’s a felony to relocate resident Canada geese.

“If it’s not injured, it’s illegal for us to come relocate them and catch them,” Mason said. “It’s considered wildlife interference.”

If a felony conviction isn’t enough of a deterrent, those wishing to move the geese should know it’s pointless. “You can’t relocate a goose,” Mason said. “You can take them and fly 100 miles and away and he’ll fly right back.”

Mason credits the geese’s built-in GPS system as guiding their annual pilgrimage back to the mall.

“Canada geese that migrate can actually see the magnetic field of the earth,” Mason said. “They will come back every year to nest in the same area that they did before and they’ve been doing this for thousands of generations.”

“There used to be woods but now there’s a parking lot and a mall,” she said.

The female Canada geese will stay put nesting, preparing for a new gosling to enter the scene at the mall. (Port City Daily photo /JOHANNA FEREBEE)
The female Canada geese will stay put, nesting and preparing for a new gosling to enter the scene at the mall. (Port City Daily photo /JOHANNA FEREBEE)

Canada geese 101

Canada geese are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

“When I’m contacted by subdivisions, HOAs, golf courses, large entities like that about resident Canada geese issues or any wildlife issues, as a district biologist, I always try to give them information on non-lethal techniques,” Kent said.

Only the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service can grant depredation — which are essentially hunting — permits for nuisance Canada geese. Kent said that even when groups want the geese gone, he tries to offer alternatives.

Dogs, approved noise maker devises, bright-colored tape and flags are all options that do not require a federal permit.

There’s also a federal registry to obtain a nesting permit that would allow for the destruction of nests and eggs. But, it might not work.

“If you destroy the eggs it will encourage the female to continue laying until it has a successful hatch,” Kent said.

With the planned overhaul of Independence Mall coming this year, it’s unclear what developers have planned for the resilient geese. Inquiries to The Collection at Independence’s spokesperson were not immediately returned.

Look, don’t touch — or call.

“In the summer we probably get 15 calls a day about the geese,” Mason said. “The phone lines are being tied up by not real issues.”

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She said the best thing you can do for the geese is leave them alone.

“Unless you witness one get run over with your own eyes or actually see the bird is bleeding, the fact that a goose is standing in a parking lot is not a reason to call 911, like they do, or call animal services, like they do.”

Mason said the mated pairs are just doing their thing.

“We don’t want to waste time, and money and manpower going on – no pun intended- wild goose chases,” she said.

Johanna Ferebee can be reached at johanna@localvoicemedia.com or @j__ferebee on Twitter

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