Geese: control populations of problem birds under licence

Find out how to control wild geese populations using egg oiling or by round-up and culling, if you’re permitted to do so under the terms of your licence.

Applies to England

You can only use these methods to control wild bird populations if you hold the relevant licence.

If you don’t have a licence, contact Natural England for advice.

Use mineral oil to prevent eggs hatching

You can stop the eggs of problem Canada and greylag geese from hatching using mineral oil (eg paraffin oil). Completely cover the eggs with mineral oil shortly after the eggs have been laid and return them to the nest.

Where birds are nesting as part of a colony, regularly search for eggs to treat during the nesting period.

Round-up and cull geese

Problem geese can be controlled by rounding up and culling whilst they’re moulting. As the birds can’t fly at this time, you can catch them by constructing a pen and a funnel and moving the birds towards it.

When to cull

You should cull geese shortly after they’ve moulted their main wing feathers as they’ll be unable to fly for 3 to 4 weeks.

This usually occurs between the end of May and the end of June.

Where to cull

Geese usually choose to moult near water. You can identify moult sites as there will normally be a large number of feathers found at the shoreline or on nearby land.

Shortly before you carry out the cull, you should visit the site to check that the birds aren’t able to fly.

Prepare the funnel and holding pen

You should place the funnel and pen at a location which is regularly used by the geese to enter and exit the water. If possible, set up the funnel and pen at least a day before the cull is due to take place, so that the birds can get used to it.

Use wire mesh and stakes to create the 2 arms of the funnel. These should run from the water’s edge to the entrance of the holding pen.

You should build the holding pen at the end of the arms of the funnel. It should be large enough to hold the size of the expected catch. Cover the outside of the pen with sacking or similar material so that the birds won’t be alarmed by human presence when they’re inside the pen.

Catch the geese

Rounding-up the geese should take place at first light, although several catches can take place at different sites throughout the day.

You’ll need at least 6 people for a small catch. Split your team so that you have some:

  • in canoes on the water
  • on the banks around the edge of the water to stop the geese escaping

The canoeists should circle behind the geese and move them gently and steadily towards the funnel and the entrance to the pen.

Once you’ve moved the geese out of the water and towards the entrance of the pen, the canoeists and those on the banks should be positioned at the water’s edge, along the width of the funnel. Continue to move the birds into the pen and close the gate once they’re inside.

Leave the birds alone for a while to allow them to calm down. This will help prevent unnecessary suffering as the geese are protected by the Animal Welfare Act 2006 once they’re held within the pen.

Cull the geese

To avoid unnecessarily distressing the birds:

  • don’t enter the pen
  • deal with young birds first as they’re vulnerable to being trampled
  • individually remove birds from the pen and kill them quickly and humanely, out of sight from the other birds

Under your licence you can kill the birds by:

  • using a geese despatcher
  • shooting them, if you take all necessary precautions before using a firearm

You’ll need an additional licence if you decide to kill the birds by lethal injection. Contact Natural England for more information.

You must dispose of the carcasses responsibly. Contact your local council if you need further advice.


For further advice, or to report the action that you’ve taken under your licence, contact Natural England’s wildlife licensing unit:

Wildlife licensing

Natural England
Horizon House
Deanery Road


Telephone 020 8026 1089

Published 2 June 2015