CHICAGO — For the thousands of Canada geese making their way to Chicago, a measure of their success as a species can be seen on your shoe.
Your poop-covered shoe, that is.
Tens of thousands of the Maxima subspecies of Canada geese are currently nesting, eating and pooping all over Chicago. The subspecies was thought to be extinct but was discovered in the early 1960s. The birds were reintroduced into areas throughout the continent, including Chicago. The Maxima subspecies now numbers in the millions.
"It's a success story, but one of the things that sometimes happens with success stories is they're a little too successful," said Doug Stotz, a Senior Conservation Ecologist at Field Museum. "Essentially what we've done is created a perfect habitat for them, and we get horrified when they use it."
Chicago is perfect for geese because of the city's countless lawns and easy access to water. Parks, cemeteries and people's yards are ideal for the birds.
One goose can poop about every seven minutes and drop a full pound of doo-doo in a day, Stotz said. They poop more in Chicago because they mostly eat grass here as another food staple — corn — isn't available.
"They're eating grass, which is not highly nutritious," Stotz said. "They can't digest it, and they have to get rid of it somehow."
It wouldn't be surprising if the local goose population continues to grow considering there's almost no legal hunting of the birds, except in two spots on the Southeast Side.
The geese and their nests are also protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act; however people can apply for egg-shaking permits through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Department. Those permits allow people to take the geese eggs and shake them, which kills the chicks before they hatch.
Stotz said city residents can limit geese in their yards by planting things like bushes that reduce the amount of lawn space.
Stotz admits he's a fan of the geese but understands why others might not like them.
"I like them, but I know people who hate Canada geese befouling their lawns and golf courses," he said.
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