Elkhart Lake hires feds to kill geese at public beach
Birds to be caught, euthanized, then processed into food for area pantries
By Troy Laack
Sheboygan Press staff
Elkhart Lake's nuisance geese are cooked – or soon will be.
The village is working with the United States Department of Agriculture to remove about 60 geese that have littered the public beach with droppings the last two summers. The geese will be killed and processed into food for area food pantries, or used in animal feed.
"You have kids that want to play in the sand and people who want to sit in the grass," Village Clerk Jeanette Moioffer said. "It's been a big problem the last couple of years."
The Village Board agreed last week to contract the USDA Wildlife Services office in Waupun to capture the Canada geese, Moioffer said.
Village employees used scoops to remove large amounts of goose droppings the last two summers, said Richard Solek of the department of public works.
"We just pile it in a five-gallon pail," Solek said. "It was a daily routine."
Two public works employees, each averaging about $20 an hour in wages, spent a minimum of an hour a day cleaning up the feces, Solek said.
Even though Canada geese are protected under federal law, USDA Wildlife Services can capture geese and euthanize them for communities, said Dan Hirchert, a wildlife biologist with the agency. The statewide goose population has risen over the years to 155,000, which the state Department of Natural Resources wants see drop to 68,000, he said.
After the geese are captured, each adult will be processed into ground meat at a cost to the village of $7.50 a bird, then donated to food pantries. Smaller geese will be euthanized and processed into animal feed. The village paid $800 to have Wildlife Services test seven geese during the winter to make sure they're safe for human and animal consumption, which they passed, Hirchert said.
It'll cost the village an estimated $1,000 to $3,000 to capture the geese in June or July, when the adult birds molt or lose some feathers and become unable to fly, Hirchert said. Wildlife Services will use panels of netting to surround the geese and corral them into a trailer that can hold up to 300 birds.
"You build a fence around the geese … and they can't fly away because they're flightless," Hirchert said. "We have a trailer rigged up with holding cages."
Wildlife Services has abated geese problems in this manner in about 35 Wisconsin communities since 1999, Hirchert said.
It's important to abate the problem now when the number of geese is small, because they can contribute to health problems like E. coli, Hirchert said.
"It just makes general good hygiene that you don't want your kids playing in soccer fields and beaches that are covered with goose feces, but the health issues of it, you would just about have to eat it to get sick from it," Hirchert said.
The Osthoff Resort, 101 Osthoff Ave., had experienced problems with the geese, but found its own solutions to the problem, said Lola Roeh, general manager of the hotel.
"We sprayed our grass with a natural goose repellent," Roeh said. "They don't like the way it tastes."
The repellent doesn't harm the geese, Roeh said.
The Osthoff also put up streamers of small triangular flags with multiple colors along the shoreline, which geese don't like to step over, she said. The flags also make flapping noise in the wind that deters the geese, Roeh said.
"I think the geese are beautiful when they're swimming on the lake, but they can be a nuisance," she said.
Wildlife Services will work with any municipality or individual to abate animal problems ranging from a woodpecker banging on a house to bears, wolves or deer causing bigger problems, Hirchert said.Reach Troy Laack at firstname.lastname@example.org and 453-5133.