Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) said experienced shooters will be tasked to help control numbers of the birds – and crucially reduce damage to farmland – with 5500 geese due to be killed as part of a pilot project on Orkney.
The scheme has been developed given the significant damage caused by rising populations of greylag geese to arable and grass crops, SNH added.
Geese management schemes are already in place on Islay, where farmers are financially compensated for damage caused by huge numbers who arrive in winter and often leave fields needing re-seeded come spring. Farmers can also apply to shoot a restricted numbers of geese under licence.
On announcing the more radical approach to geese management, SNH said its long-term goal is to have a goose population which is sustainable and will generate income for local people.
On Orkney, geese numbers will be recorded and population levels monitored each summer with claims the cull will "help ensure the population is managed at a level which reduces the impact on farming activities while retaining the species' conservation interest".
Plans are also being developed for additional pilots on Coll and Tiree, Islay and the Uists, all of which have rising numbers of greylags.
Gail Churchill, SNH's Orkney operations manager, said: "We are responding to the concerns of local farmers and land managers and we are also committed to ensuring management is controlled so the populations of geese are managed sustainably.
"The initial target is for 5500 to be taken as part of a pilot this year though in subsequent years this number will reduce as the overall population decreases.
"The number taken in the pilot is very small in comparison with the large number of migratory greylag and pink-footed geese taken each year in Orkney. The work will be undertaken by experienced shooters following established best practice methods, and overseen by staff within Scottish Agricultural College."
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Scotland was unavailable for comment yesterday but has been part of the decision-making process on the Orkney scheme. Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the National Farmers' Union Scotland have also been consulted to balance goose conservation with sustainable agricultural land management.
Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse said: "The Scottish Government recognises the major role farmers have played in the success of goose conservation projects and the significant increase in goose numbers over the past 10 years. However, it is clear increasing populations of resident geese in particular areas of Scotland pose new challenges for farmers and, given that other methods have only proved partially successful, further action is now deemed essential to bring resident geese numbers down to a sustainable level which may also provide conservation benefits for other species."
Elisa Allen, a spokewoman for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), said: "This hideous plan will only add to the disgust people feel about how out of tune with the modern view of animals as individuals, not nuisances.
"There are many humane alternatives which can spare these birds unnecessary suffering. PETA implores Orkney officials to take the welfare of these animals, as well as the sentiments of the majority of Scottish people, who abhor cruelty to animals in any form, into consideration and cancel this hideous plan."
l The first licence for a pilot cull of badgers in a bid to tackle TB in cattle was issued yesterday, Natural England said. The cull will go ahead in Gloucestershire.
Animal welfare and wildlife campaigners have opposed the cull, which farmers say is necessary to tackle TB in cattle because badgers spread the disease to livestock, but lost their fight in the High Court.