If you’ve ever wandered near a nesting goose, you already know that they can be extremely aggressive. It’s hard to imagine that geese are preyed upon at all, but in fact, there are several species that pose a real threat to geese, and they aren’t always what you think.
Geese are regularly preyed upon by ground mammals like foxes or raccoons, birds of prey including eagles and hawks, reptiles like snakes, and even some water-based reptiles or fish.
In this article, we’ll look at 11 different species that commonly prey on geese and goslings, and learn how even seemingly harmless animals like turtles and fish are a major danger for geese.
What Eats Geese?
Raccoons are usually scavengers but may be tempted to kill goslings if they are presented with an opportunity.
Raccoons are attracted by food waste and unsealed garbage bags. The best way to protect your geese from raccoons is to remove the pull factors of garbage or food and to make sure your goose pen is sealed with buried chicken wire to prevent raccoons and foxes from being able to get to them.
Foxes are probably the most well-known predator of poultry, including chickens, geese, and ducks.
Foxes are found almost everywhere in the world, especially in the countryside where they live.
Unlike other land predators like raccoons that are scavengers that might snatch a gosling if presented with an opportunity, foxes are carnivorous predators that will kill and eat even full-grown adult geese.
Snakes are ovivores, which means they regularly eat the eggs of other species, including poultry like geese, chickens, and ducks.
Most snakes will eat chicken or goose eggs, but only a few will eat the geese themselves.
In the United States, species to look out for are cottonmouths and pythons, both of which will happily eat small birds as well as eggs.
Hawks have been confounding farmers for hundreds of years. When a fox gets into the poultry, there is blood and feathers everywhere, evidence of the fox’s presence.
Hawks and other raptors can pick up whole geese and carry them away without a trace.
Some species of Hawk (most notably Harrier hawks) can hover in the air, waiting for the perfect moment to strike, making them especially dangerous to goslings that become separated from their mothers.
Owls are silent night hunters and regularly hunt small animals like mice and rats.
While a full-sized goose may be too large for an owl to handle, a gosling is definitely in danger when there’ a hungry owl looking for a meal.
Some species of owl can hunt in complete darkness, which gives them a huge advantage over geese, who are not nocturnal and can not see at night.
Owls use their sensitive ears to locate their prey, so a flock of geese can help protect against predation with their loud, constant honking throughout the night.
6. Wild Dogs
Similar to foxes, wild dogs are descended from wolves and present a real danger to geese in areas where they exist.
According to GIS data provided by the University of California, wild dogs and coyotes are present in all of the 48 contiguous united states.
Although wild dogs are a clear danger to poultry, many farmers choose to use domestic dogs to protect their flocks.
Eagles are apex predators, they can hunt not only other birds but large land mammals including deer and sheep.
There are over 60 species of eagle in the world today, covering almost the entirety of Europe, Asia, and North America.
Eagles can attack air-to-air as well as air-to-ground, and that’s part of the reason why migratory birds like geese fly so high.
If the eagle is the apex predator of the skies, wolves are the apex predator of the ground.
The main threat to geese from wolves is in Northern Canada, where many millions of geese spend the summer months each year during their breeding season, and where grey wolves still roam free.
Unless you’ve witnessed a snapping turtle first-hand, it may be difficult to visualize just how dangerous they can be.
Snapping turtles are carnivorous, with powerful sharp jaws that can snatch swimming goslings as they float on the surface, dragging them under from below.
To give you an idea of how strong a snapping turtle is, in 2018 a snapping turtle in Florida was found with a whole human finger inside it.
Similar to snapping turtles, some fish will gladly feast on floating goslings or other waterfowl chicks.
Goslings are especially at risk when they are tiny chicks since even small fish like carp and pike can easily grab them and drag them under at this stage. Geese usually mate for life to help defend their young from predators until they are old enough to fend for themselves.
Rats eat not only goslings but the unhatched eggs too.
Unfortunately, since rats can see in the dark they have a massive advantage over geese, which are diurnal and can only see during the day.
Although geese can be vicious and can usually defend themselves, rats are able to use the cover of darkness to snatch the babies undetected.
The solution for farmers is to use a rat-proof enclosure to house their geese. This is a bit more of a hassle than a simple fox-proof enclosure since rats can squeeze through most standard chicken wire, which has a 25mm (1 inch) aperture.
To help prevent rats from being attracted to the enclosure in the first place, farmers should limit any excess food lying around after feeding his geese.
Read More: Why You Should Never Feed Bread to a Goose.
To sum up, there are a surprising number of predators that eat geese, including ground mammals, reptiles, birds of prey, and fish.
The most common predators are foxes, who have been terrorizing poultry farmers for centuries, but geese are also eaten by raccoons, rats, snakes, snapping turtles, fish, hawks, owls, eagles, other birds of prey, and wolves and wild dogs in some locations.
Stuart is the editor of Fauna Facts. He edits our writers’ work as well as contributing his own content. Stuart is passionate about sustainable farming and animal welfare and has written extensively on cows and geese for the site.