Canada Goose management: best practices for killing and carcass disposal

Environment and Climate Change Canada's Canadian Wildlife Service

Three images: Left: Canada Goose. Centre: Canada Goose foot. Right: flock of geese on a body of water.
Photo: ©, 2011

These best practices must be attached to permits issued under Section 26.1 of the Migratory Bird Regulations.

As described by the American Veterinary Medical Association (2007), the application of best practices “ensures that when an animal’s life is taken, it is done… with an emphasis on making the death as painless and distress free as possible. Euthanasia techniques should result in rapid loss of consciousness followed by cardiac or respiratory arrest and the ultimate loss of brain function. In addition, the technique should minimize distress and anxiety experienced by the animal prior to loss of consciousness… the absence of pain and distress cannot always be achieved. The [AVMA] guidelines attempt to balance the ideal of minimal pain and distress with the reality of the many environments in which euthanasia is performed.”

You must have a permit from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service to kill birds causing damage or danger.

The preferred method for killing wild geese depends on the particular situation involved. For example, gunshot is likely to be the most effective technique to dispatch individual flying birds whereas moulting flocks may be more appropriately rounded up and dispatched using a carbon dioxide chamber.

Whichever method is selected as being most appropriate, killing must be done as privately as possible, and the carcasses disposed of appropriately. The allowed method of killing and for carcass disposal in each situation will be identified on the Migratory Birds and danger Permit, and should be determined through discussion with the CWS permit issuance office.

When geese are transferred to a new location where the killing will take place, the transportation should be carried out as described in “Best Practices for Capturing, Transporting and Caring for relocated Canada Geese”.

Permissible methods will be specified on the permit, according to the guidelines outlined below.

As described in Best practices for nuisance wildlife control operators in New York State by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (2004a), the preferred methods for killing Canada Geese are:

  1. Gunshot
  2. Carbon dioxide chamber (Inhalant gases)
  3. Stunning and decapitation
  4. Commercial poultry processor

The Canadian Council on Animal Care (2003) provides useful guidance in applying these techniques, as does the New York State of Environmental Conservation (2004b).

  1. Gunshot
    1. Gunshot is the preferred technique, because it is very effective and causes the least stress for the bird.
    2. The necessary permits to allow discharge of a firearm at the location must be obtained by the holder of the Damage and Danger permit.
    3. The shooter must meet the requirements and hold certifications required to operate a firearm.
    4. Non-toxic shot must be used.
    5. Shooting should take place when there are few people in the area.
    6. If the bird is injured but not killed, the shooter must make every effort to retrieve the bird and dispatch it through cervical dislocation.
  2. Carbon dioxide chamber
    1. Requires a closed chamber to hold the gas.
    2. CO2 is non-explosive and inexpensive, and can be purchased in pressurized cylinders.
    3. This technique will require that geese are captured and transported to the chamber location; the best practices for transportation as described in Best Practices for Capturing, Transporting and Caring for Relocated Canada Geese must be followed.
    4. Carbon Monoxide may also be used in a chamber, but is more difficult to handle properly and so is not recommended.
  3. Stunning and decapitation
    1. Blunt force: This method can be used on most birds and may be particularly useful for larger birds. This method requires securely holding the bird in an ice-cream cone grip, then rapidly and firmly bringing the head down on a hard surface (e.g., a rock). This method is effective in rendering the bird unconscious and/or dead. To ensure death, cervical dislocation should immediately follow the blunt force trauma.
    2. Cervical Dislocation: This technique involves quickly stretching the neck, severing the spine. The neck should never be twisted, but pulled in a straight line away from the body. This technique is easily learned and can be used on birds as large as pheasants or small geese (Canadian Council on Animal Care and Canadian Wildlife Service, 2008).
    3. Decapitation: when dispatching large numbers of geese, the potential humane benefits of stunning prior to decapitation must be weighed against the stress caused by additional confinement and handling times.
  4. Commercial poultry processor
    1. The birds may be transported to, and dispatched by a commercial poultry process, when the holder of the Migratory Birds Damage and Danger permit is able to find a willing processor.
  5. Non-inhalant Pharmaceutical agents and Volatile Anesthetics
    1. These agents must be administered intravenously, with additional sedation as needed.
    2. In all cases, the person doing the dispatching should be a trained technician with supporting documentation.

Carcass disposal:

For permits issued for Kill-to-Support scaring, whenever possible carcasses should be left in the open to act as a deterrent. In any other situation, the carcasses must be disposed of in appropriate manner. The Migratory Birds Regulations currently permit the bird to be consumed by the permit holder, but do not allow the donation of birds to another person or entity, including permit nominees - this aspect of the Migratory Birds Regulations is currently being evaluated.

The permissible method of carcass disposal will be specified on the Migratory Birds Damage and Danger permit. The following general principles apply:

  1. When disposing of bird carcasses, the public concern must be taken into account.
  2. Carcasses being transported or temporarily stored in a vehicle should be covered.
  3. A carcass may be discarded, burned or buried on the property where it was taken or deposited on another property if approved by that property owner.
  4. Goose carcasses may be disposed of at landfills where animal disposal is permitted. The carcasses should be placed in bags. They should not be deposited in garbage dumpsters.
  5. Goose carcasses may be incinerated in approved facilities that comply with local regulations.
  6. When pharmaceutical agents were used to dispatch the geese, the carcasses must be disposed of in a way to ensure that the chemicals do not enter the food chain. This includes incineration or liming the carcass before burial.

A copy of the permit must be carried at all times whenever capturing, transporting or killing geese.


American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) (2007). AVMA Guidelines on Euthanasia (PDF; 549 Kb).

Canadian Council on Animal Care: guidelines on the care and use of wildlife. 2003. Ottawa, Canada.

Canadian Council on Animal Care and Canadian Wildlife Service. 2008. Migratory Birds in Research: Animal User Training (PDF; 4,57 Mb).

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 2004a. Best practices for nuisance wildlife control operators in New York State.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 2004b. Best Practices, a step-by-step guide.

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