UNF students’ guide to living with campus geese

Cassidy Alexander

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Here at UNF, we are the Ospreys. But we live with the geese. For some reason they were intentionally introduced to UNF’s campus and now we have to coexist with the species year round since they no longer migrate. Here are the Do’s and Don’ts of living with the geese on campus. DO watch out for poop.

Poop droppings are like foot traps planted by the infamous geese. Be aware of where you're stepping on the way to class. Photo by Josh Brangenberg
Poop droppings are like foot traps planted by the infamous geese. Be aware of where you’re stepping on the way to class.
Photo by Joshua Brangenberg

Be very aware of where you step, especially around Candy Cane Lake, the sidewalk to Crossings, and the green. According to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management, a single goose can poop every 20 minutes and produce 1.5 pounds of fecal matter per day. If we have 75 geese on campus, that’s 112.5 pounds every single day of the year. And over a year they drop 41,062.5 pounds of waste. Holy s–t! Be very wary where you step. Maintenance does a good job of hosing down the most popular walkways on a regular basis, but they’re fighting an uneven battle. DON’T feed the geese.

The gaggle of geese don't need extra crumbs or leftovers when they have more than enough in nature. Photo by Josh Brangenberg
The gaggle of geese don’t need extra crumbs or leftovers when they have more than enough in nature.
Photo by Joshua Brangenberg

Do NOT feed the geese. What have you been taught at every zoo or nature preserve or park that you’ve ever been too? Don’t feed the animals. You don’t feed the alligator swimming in the lake near your house, so why would you try to feed the goose lying in wait when you come out of the cafe? They have plenty of food in the many lakes and grassy areas around campus, and they can’t digest all of the human food they’re given, meaning only one thing: more poop to avoid. AND it will just make them more aggressive and eager to approach you. The geese already run the campus and mark territories with poop — can we just retain dominance in one meager aspect? Don’t feed them. DO take cute pictures of the baby geese in the spring.

Spring semester means sweet newborn goslings on campus. Photo by Josh Brangenberg
Spring semester means sweet newborn goslings on campus.
Photo by Joshua Brangenberg

This is the one minor redeeming factor about living with geese. In the spring semester, they will mate and their eggs will hatch. Campus will be filled with these small balls of yellow fur trying to stand in grass that’s as tall as they are. You’ll find them near their nests, so in areas that are kind of secluded. They’re really just too cute for even me to hate them. I strongly encourage you to take a picture, because it’s not going to last. Soon they’ll be very awkward adolescents and then after that full blown nuisances.

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Mother goose leading her goslings in the water.
Photo by Joshua Brangenberg

DON’T get too close to the nests or families. The baby geese will remain with their parents for the first year, according to allaboutbirds.org, and the mothers are very protective. Like any species, be wary of getting too close to the birds when the babies are around, because they perceive you as a threat and are perfectly willing to lash out at you. DO watch out for the geese fights. After summer is over, they will become more social, meaning they will band together in large groups, often around Candy Cane Lake. During this time, fights may break out. They will honk and hiss, spread and flap their wings, and even go after each other with wings extended, beak open and neck low to the ground. This used to really alarm me, but as long as you give them a wide berth, you should be okay. They’re pretty peaceful during fall and winter, when there are no nests to protect. DON’T hit them when you’re driving.

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A family of geese cross the road in what looks like size and age order–oldest to youngest.
Photo by Joshua Brangenberg

If you have a car or have driven around campus, you’re very aware of this problem. The geese like to explore campus and move around a lot, which includes crossing the road. And in their book, it often entails stopping in the middle of the road and contemplating their existence. A lot of times they’ll go across in pairs so they can make sure to block both lanes at once. Unfortunately, they are largely unresponsive to honking your horn or screaming expletives out your window. All you can do is wait for them to pass. Be observant of when one of the glorified pigeons walks into the road, because they’re protected animals and it’s illegal to kill them, even if they fly out in front of your car. DO pay special attention to the ducks on campus.

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The white duck is a minority compared to the ruling gaggle of geese on campus.
Photo by Joshua Brangenberg

It is my belief that the ducks on campus, which are much nicer and much cuter than the geese, are bullied by the geese. On more than one occasion I’ve seen geese chasing the white duck on campus, only to have the white duck come away with bent feathers. The white duck took several brown ducks under its wing last year. He’s a good egg, and it’s a goose-eat-duck world out there. All puns aside, the ducks are way more worthy of our affection than the geese are. Be nice to them. DON’T encourage the geese in the Target parking lot.

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A gaggle of geese wade in the water.
Photo by Joshua Brangenberg

There’s currently a couple of geese who thought it would be smart to nest in the back of the Target/Staples parking lot in the St. John’s Town Center. So how do the owners of the plaza respond? They put up a fence, put out water and food bowls like they’re cats, and let people drive up to them and take their picture. They should really be charging admission at this point, it’s quite the spectacle. What I’m trying to say is don’t be like that. The geese are wild animals and they can fend for themselves. Don’t forget that and start treating them like house pets.

DO make the most out of living with the geese. Sometimes they do cute stuff, like flipping upside down in the water or waddling really fast when they’re walking across a sidewalk. And who else in Florida can say that they cohabitated with geese and lived to tell the tale? I’m by no means a big fan of the geese, but I would say that I feel more closely aligned to them than Ozzie Osprey. They really are the face of UNF.

Gallery photos by Joshua Brangenberg [doptg id=”11″]