If you’ve ever had an unpleasant encounter with an aggressive goose, you may have wondered if you can legally hit or kick the bird in self-defense. Geese can be quite territorial and will often hiss, chase or even bite when they feel threatened. So what are your legal rights when it comes to geese?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: It’s generally illegal to hit or harm a goose unless it’s an act of self-defense. You must show that the force used was reasonable and necessary to prevent an attack.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about goose protection laws and your legal rights when it comes to defending yourself against aggressive geese.

Federal Laws Protecting Geese

Migratory Bird Treaty Act

The primary federal law protecting geese is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which makes it illegal to hunt, kill, sell, purchase, or possess migratory birds or their parts (feathers, nests, eggs) without a permit in the U.S. and prevents the transport of illegally taken migratory birds across state lines and the border between the U.S. and Canada or Mexico.

Canada geese are considered migratory birds and are thus protected under this act. Violators can face maximum fines of $15,000 and up to six months imprisonment for each violation. So it is generally illegal to intentionally harm or kill Canada geese without a permit from the U.S.

Fish and Wildlife Service


Other Federal Regulations

In addition to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, geese may be further protected by federal laws like the Endangered Species Act if they belong to a threatened or endangered species, and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act if they are bald or golden eagles.

There are also statutes allowing nonlethal harassment or removal of problem geese with permission or permits from federal and state wildlife agencies. So while generally protected, there are some exceptions allowing management of overabundant resident goose populations in particular areas that cause issues.

State and Local Laws on Harming Geese

No Physical Harm Allowed in Most Areas

In most states and localities, it is illegal to physically harm or kill geese without proper authorization. Geese are classified as migratory birds and protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918.

This federal law makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, kill or capture migratory birds, their nests, eggs or young without a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Additionally, many states have their own laws prohibiting harm to wildlife. For example, California’s Fish and Game Code states that “it is unlawful to take, possess, or destroy any birds in any manner,” unless permitted for hunting during appropriate seasons.

So before taking any action against nuisance geese, be sure to check both federal and state/local regulations.

Exceptions for Self-Defense

While harming geese is generally prohibited, most laws do provide some exceptions for self-defense. If a goose attacks or poses an immediate physical threat, most states allow reasonable force to fend off the geese.

However, the response has to be proportional to the threat – you can’t retaliate against a minor nip with excessive force. Relying on non-lethal hazing or scattering techniques is highly recommended in these situations whenever possible.

Hunting Regulations

Hunting geese is allowed in most states during specific seasons with the proper licenses and permits. For example, about 23 states allow goose hunting in fall and winter, usually limiting hunters to a specific number of geese per day.

Methods and equipment used to hunt geese are strictly regulated as well. So goose hunting can be permissible but only under very controlled conditions outlined by state wildlife agencies.

In some problem areas, additional special permits are issued allowing landowners and local governments to hunt or destroy nuisance geese outside normal hunting seasons. For example, New York State began its own permit system in recent years to control excessive resident goose populations that damage property or threaten human health.

So in some cases, goose removal plans can be approved but require following rigorous application procedures in order to obtain the special legal exemptions.

When Is It Considered Self-Defense Against a Goose?

What Legally Constitutes Self-Defense

Using force against a goose can only be considered self-defense if the goose poses an imminent threat of bodily harm to you or others. You generally can’t claim self-defense if the goose is just hanging around peacefully or retreating from confrontation.

The key is that the danger must be immediate and unavoidable to justify defensive action.

Using Reasonable Force

If a goose does attack you, you may use reasonable force to fend it off. Things like yelling, waving your arms, or gently pushing the goose would qualify. Going beyond that by severely injuring or killing the goose when lesser force would suffice makes your claim to self-defense much weaker.

For example, if a goose nips at your leg, that may justify loudly scaring it away or carefully shooing it. But to then kick or beat the goose would likely be legally excessive and unnecessary force.

Documenting Injuries or Damage

If a goose does injure you or damage your property, make sure to carefully document that. Photos of bites or scratches on your body, ripped clothing, etc. will help support your self-defense justification. You’ll also want contact info for any witnesses who saw the goose attack happen.

Canada geese can be quite aggressive during nesting and molting seasons. While they rarely cause serious injuries, their bites and wings can hurt. Know your right to reasonable self-defense, but also practice prevention by not approaching geese or their goslings.

Non-Violent Ways to Deter Aggressive Geese

Make Loud Noises to Scare Them

Geese can be easily startled by loud noises. Creating loud sounds such as yelling, clapping, using noisemakers like air horns, whistles, or bells can quickly scare geese away. Just be careful not to get too close when making loud noises as aggressive geese may try to attack.

Making random loud noises work better than consistent sounds that geese can get used to over time.

Some innovative gadgets can help like the GoosBuster which randomly emits 30 different predator and alarm calls that geese perceive as threats (https://www.bird-x.com/goosbuster-product-112.php). Motion-activated sprinklers also emit loud startling sounds in addition to spray bursts.

Use Sprinklers and Water Jets

Geese dislike water sprayed directly at them. Installing motion-activated sprinkler systems or manual water jets around your property can deter geese from loafing. The sprinklers get triggered when geese come near, scaring them away with both sounds and water.

Popular goose-repelling sprinkler systems include the ScareCrow and GoosBuster. They can spray water up to 35-40 feet covering a 1,200 sq ft area (https://www.bird-x.com/scarecrow-motion-activated-sprinkler-77.php).

You can also use a regular lawn sprinkler on an intermittent timer to randomly startle geese.

Install Fences or Barriers

Installing fences and barriers can deter geese by blocking access to large open areas they need for takeoff and landing. Short fences about 30 inches high with mesh holes small enough to prevent birds stepping through work well. Slanted tops at 45 degree angles also prevent geese from perching.

Alternatives like tightly-strung wire, ropes, tape, or mylar ribbons can also create barriers for geese. Ensure there are no gaps along the ground larger than 5 inches so geese cannot squeeze underneath.

Set up barriers at least 30-50 feet from the areas you want to protect. Geese need adequate runway space for their large bodies to become airborne which barriers obstruct. This forces geese to look elsewhere to roost and feed.

Consequences for Illegally Harming Geese

Fines and Jail Time

Intentionally harming or killing geese can result in stiff penalties, depending on the circumstances and jurisdiction. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, harming or killing migratory birds like Canada geese can include fines up to $15,000 and up to 6 months in jail per bird.

Wow, that’s pretty serious!

Most states and municipalities also have laws prohibiting harming wildlife. For example, in New York the penalty for illegally taking or hunting wildlife ranges from $250-$5,000 plus 3 years probation or jail time. The consequences tend to be more severe if the harm is intentional or cruel.

Using methods like poisoning geese could lead to felony animal cruelty charges.

Civil Lawsuits

In addition to criminal penalties, intentionally harming geese may open one up to civil lawsuits. Geese are often owned by public agencies, private landowners, or considered a public resource. If your actions lead to loss or damage, you may be sued to recoup economic damages.

For instance, in a Wisconsin case a hunter was ordered to pay $1,400 for mistakenly shooting someone’s wiener dog he thought was a fox. Likewise, killing valuable goose breeds could warrant significant civil damages. Even just the loss of recreational value may be factored in.


In summary, it is generally illegal to hit or harm a goose, even if it’s behaving aggressively. Geese are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Additionally, most states prohibit causing intentional harm to geese outside of regulated hunting.

However, you may legally use reasonable force if necessary to prevent an imminent attack as self-defense. Whenever possible, it’s best to use humane deterrents to discourage problematic goose behavior rather than resorting to violence.

Understand your rights, but also practice compassion for wildlife.

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