What should have been a regular walk to class turned into an escape route for two roommates.

Theresa Leyba and Kim Archer experienced multiple fowl interactions with geese last spring. Nearly every day they encountered honking problems: aggressive geese and their poop.

Living in Studebaker West meant they had to walk to class next to a campus goose population. 

They would often take alternative routes just to avoid the geese, said Archer, sophomore elementary and special education major.

The birds would be aggressive in breeding season, Archer said.

On top of that, the geese were “annoying” and “kind of gross” said Leyba, sophomore elementary education major.

Canada geese can be “very aggressive toward humans” during breeding season, said Kamal Islam, professor of biology. Nesting season for these avians begins in April.

“The gander [male goose] is very protective of his female, his goose. He will often hiss and come out with an outstretched neck and open up its mouth,” Islam said. “The key thing is just to steer away … especially during the breeding season. It needs a particular personal space.”

Canada geese can be found at both the Duck Pond on campus and east of Noyer Hall around the Park Hall pond, said Michael Planton, associate director of environmental management. Overall, there are around 130,000 residential Canada geese in Indiana, according to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Most of the time, there is little interaction between students and Canada geese, Planton said. Only in the spring when geese start to nest can geese act aggressively toward students.

“Your best bet is to [be] more aggressive than they are,” Planton said in an email. “Start waving your arms and yelling when you think they are becoming too close.”

However, students can run into geese year round, Islam said. Geese can be migratory or residential, but are typically residential, which means they stay here all year. Because humans have impacted landscapes, many geese can now find food throughout the year, he said. 

While geese only interact with students when they are near them, they continually impact students as they walk to class, Planton said.

Because Canada geese love to feed off of campus grass, Planton said their poop can be found across campus sidewalks. 

While the goose poop can act as fertilizer, many people dislike it, Islam said.

“People who have lawns don’t particularly care for them,” Islam said. “They poop all over the place.”

Planton said it can be difficult to keep Ball State sidewalks clean from goose manure because of the number of geese on campus. 

Because Canada geese are a native bird to North America, they are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. This means Ball State is limited in what it can do to prevent goose poop, Planton said.

According to Indiana DNR, being federally protected means these geese can only be hunted during specified hunting seasons and within specified hunting parameters.

He said staff spray the grass areas with a product that turns the grass red in the eyes of the geese, causing the geese to move elsewhere to feed. However, the product’s use is temporary — it ends when it rains or the grass is cut, he said. 

Also, Ball State is permitted to treat eggs in the geese’s nests with oil, which “smothers” the egg, Planton said. 

However, Canada geese have been nesting on rooftops, making it difficult for Ball State employees to find the eggs, he said.

Indiana DNR advises people to not feed these geese. It also said people can enjoy watching and listening to the geese, but should realize that an overpopulation can impact human health and wildlife habitat.

Contact Liz Rieth with comments at ejrieth@bsu.edu or on Twitter @liz_rieth.