Geese program controls population, garners complaint
Submitted by Leah Shaffer on July 27, 2007 - 3:07pm.
By Leah Shaffer
As July comes to a close, so too does the Eden Prairie Canada goose roundup.
Almost 500 geese were trapped in Eden Prairie this summer, and sent to processing facilities to be slaughtered. It’s a program that most metro cities participate in, though Eden Prairie might be in the top five in terms of goose population.
The Canada geese program, run by retired University of Minnesota Professor Jim Cooper, is in its 25th year. The Twin Cities is one of the few large urban areas in the country that can show a decline in the resident goose population thanks to this program and the special hunting seasons, according to Bryan Lueth, urban area wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
According to Cooper, Eden Prairie is seeing some of its own goose population decline.
“We’re seeing declines in all of the sites we’ve been trapping,” he noted.
Cooper and his workers trap the geese by herding them into nets, then put them into trailers designed to safely haul geese. Adult geese are sent to processing plants and then go to food shelves, while goslings are sent to separate processing facilities and eventually used in animal food. Goslings used to be sent to preserves, but, with the abundance of geese populations in the country, there are now no preserves left for them.
Cooper noted that geese do so well, wherever they’re found, the likelihood of an area becoming goose free, other than ones intensely managed, “is relatively low.”
“But it could happen and certainly if there were places for goslings to go, that would be the first choice,” he said.
Some would rather the city look at alternative solutions to curbing the goose population. Jill Fritz, Minnesota/Wisconsin state director for the Humane Society of the United States, recently talked about her issues with the goose management program.
She questioned its effectiveness.
“It’s kind of killing every year, but not really addressing the problem,” she said.
Alternatives to killing the birds, she said, could include a series of different strategies. That includes a process of altering the goose egg so they don’t hatch. The city could also consider a system of discouraging the geese from an area through noisemakers, harmless repellents or flags, she said.
“Then you can also alter the habitat itself,” she added. “Geese love a nice grassy area,” where they have a clear line of site and low grass, like a park or lawn.
She suggested that people could plant bushes or plants around a water’s edge so the geese are discouraged from hanging out near those ponds.
It might take a combination of those possibilities to let the geese know that they might not want to hang out there, she said.
“It might not be quick and easy but there are ways to do it,” she said.
Leslie Stovring, the city’s environmental coordinator, said this is the first year Eden Prairie has seen any complaints about the program. She said she’s had quite a few people call to say they are happy with it.
“It has helped in our park areas quite a bit,” she noted.
According to last year’s city goose management program summary, Eden Prairie has been participating in it since the 1980s. The cost of the program ($16,000 last year) is paid out of the storm water utility fee.
In his blog, City Manager Scott Neal wrote that he agreed to examine the program after hearing from representatives of the Humane Society of the United States.
However, he noted:
“The city does not operate a goose management program out of a desire to hurt animals. We do it as respectfully and as humanely as possible, and yet still achieve the level of effectiveness we are looking for. We will evaluate new ideas and techniques to manage the goose population in Eden Prairie. But, in the end, we will manage this issue for the primary benefit of our human, not our goose, population.”
Cooper said that any scare or displacement techniques “simply move the birds next door. And in almost every case, the folks next door don’t want them either.”
“The egg destruction program, and we’ve done research on it, has a mixed result,” he noted.
In very isolated, small wetlands “we’ve had some success in destroying eggs as opposed to trapping.”
But, they have done egg destruction in one Fridley lake, found all of the nests there, destroyed them, but by mid-June, there were still 50 geese on the beach.
One of the problems with egg destruction is that it’s uncertain which nests should be destroyed and there are circumstances “where you think you’ve done the job and it’s 100 percent and it fails,” Cooper said.
Another issue is dealing with the groups of geese that are non-breeders.
For instance, he noted, almost 100 geese caught at Purgatory Creek Park were adult birds with no young. That kind of population cannot be managed by egg destruction, he said.
Lueth noted that they are trying to find a balance to having some geese around, “because I do think they contribute to our quality of life.”
Many people enjoy seeing geese, it’s just when there are large numbers and their droppings accumulate, that the problems occur, he noted.
“We’re trying to strike that balance, between having some around to enjoy but not too many that our ability to use our parks is being reduced by the goose droppings and such,” Lueth said.
- Write a letter to Eden Prairie City Manager Scott Neal protesting the brutal massacre. In the article, Mr Neal mentions having used egg addling at nest sites. He also said, "We do it as respectfully and as humanely as possible." Sending geese to slaughterhouses is not respectful and is inhumane. Humane methods that Mr. Neal has not tried include feeding the geese Ovocontrol, an egg- hatch control medication. He has not tried using trained border collies to chase the geese away before they decide to remain in the city to molt. He has also not used landscape modification. The brutal method employed shows that he had malicious and vicious intentions. Please write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Write a letter to Mayor Phil Young: email@example.com