By LARRY ALEXANDER, Staff
Ephrata's lethal methods of reducing the number of ducks and geese living along the Cocalico Creek are causing a flap among some borough residents.
Ephrata Borough is paying the U.S. Department of Agriculture $6,798 this year to help reduce the goose-and-duck population.
In addition to killing birds, nests are being destroyed and eggs are being coated with corn oil to prevent their hatching.
"I was horrified when I read about this in the newspaper," said Nanci Reese, who lives near the creek. "There has to be another way to solve this problem, if it is a problem."
The waterfowl management program began in 2002 with the removal of 42 feral ducks. The birds' wings were clipped, and they were donated to a local farm.
For the next two years, the borough focused on oiling the eggs or destroying nests. Killing the birds began in 2005, when permits were issued to "capture up to 50 Canada geese" and transport them "to a processing center, slaughter, and donate the meat to a local food bank" or else "euthanize these geese and completely destroy by burial or incineration."
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service documents, 13 geese were destroyed in 2005, 39 in 2006 and 47 in 2007. Also in 2007, for the first time, 71 mallard ducks were poisoned with alpha-chloralose.
Alpha-chloralose is an anesthetic often used by researchers to immobilize birds and other animals in laboratories or in the wild. In higher doses, it is lethal.
This year, permits call for the removal of up to 50 geese and 150 ducks.
"This has been going on for six years, but the community never heard of it," Reese said. "Nobody was aware of it."
She also complained that after borough council spent thousands of dollars to create wetland areas along the creek to control flooding and attract water birds, "now they want to poison them."
The borough claims the large number of waterfowl damage the park, pool and athletic fields, as well as cause erosion along the creek banks.
In its permit application to remove the birds, the borough claims the ducks and geese "are causing visual stress to park users due to feces everywhere … and aggressiveness by geese." The feces, which the borough says it must clean up daily, also pose a health hazard to park and pool users.
This year, the application states, the borough will spend $3,636 to cover labor to clean the pool and decks and $1,800 to clean the park walkways.
Borough manager Gary Nace said other methods were looked at before resorting to euthanasia, including noise-makers and spraying the birds with jets of water.
"We were advised to start squirting them with super-soakers at the community pool," Nace said. "It worked at first, but then when they saw someone approaching with the soaker, they took off. And if you didn't have the soaker, they didn't move."
Under the program, borough employees feed the ducks to lure them to certain areas. After that, the USDA moves in with corn laced with alpha-chloralose. Dead birds are removed, as is any uneaten food lying on the ground.
Reese questions this method. The poison does not take effect immediately, and dead ducks have been found away from the feeding areas, she said.
"The USDA even says if the ducks fly away, they can fall from the sky when the poison takes effect," Reese said.
As for uneaten food that might not get picked up, she asked, "Does it go into our groundwater? Or what if you're walking your dog along there or somebody's child picks it up? Or what about the duck that fell in the creek and is poisoned? What about the animals that eat that? There's a whole chain of events."
Hoping to stop the program, Reese recently presented borough council with a petition bearing the signatures of more than 30 of her neighbors. She also offered to form a citizens panel to look into the waterfowl issue, seeking alternate solutions.
Council rejected the committee idea. A letter to Reese from councilman Dale Hertzog said "the establishment of such a committee would not be in the best interests of the borough and its residents."
Defending his position, Hertzog said the rejection stemmed from the fact that it came too late, saying "the issue had already been dealt with."
He said he might have supported Reese's idea if she had come to council first, so the board could "draft the mission of the committee."
Council approved the waterfowl reduction plan by a 6-to-1 vote. The lone dissenter was council president Robert Good, who lives along the creek.
"To me the wildlife is part of the natural habitat of the creek," he said. "I've never found them to be such a problem that extermination is necessary."
Good said he, his wife and their grandchildren have "gotten a lot of enjoyment out of watching, especially the geese with their goslings, and also the ducks and their young."
"I voted against it, and I would vote against it again," Good said.
Reese has not given up and still hopes to form a committee to "study the issue" and look at other alternatives to euthanasia.
"We would study the issue for the borough thoroughly," she said. "We'd do all the needed research, go to other municipalities to see how they deal with it, contact the Lancaster Crow Coalition, talk to USDA and Ducks Unlimited, and find out how to manage this and how many birds we can support here."
Relocating mallards is out, Nace said, as Fish and Game guidelines prohibit it. Other ducks may be relocated.
Despite the criticism, Nace made it clear the waterfowl reduction program will continue, although the methods used may change.
"We're going to continue to look at managing the population of the ducks and geese," Nace said. "But if it will be in this same format, I can't say."
Lethal methods of goose control are an exercise in futility and a waste of taxpayer dollars. Common sense dictates that when a void is created, other waterfowl will eventually fill the void. How many Ephrata voters knew the Council members they voted into office were capable of acting in such a cruel and inhumane manner? And since when is it socially acceptable to kill an animal for causing "visual stress" simply because the animal is doing what comes naturally? Outrageous! Furthermore, there is no evidence the geese pose a "health hazard". All animals, human and non-human alike, pose a "potential" health risk but if not infected, there is no disease to spread. Shall all animals, including humans, be destroyed because they pose a "potential" health risk? Absurd! For health quotes by professionals in the field visit:
The only explanation for a failed, non-lethal goose abatement program is that the program was ill-designed and not carried out in all sincerity with humane intentions. For information on Canada geese, visit the web site of the Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese at:
Stanley, I agree!
There are way to many humans in this world, that's why there is famin so we should take to getting rid of the people who bleed us dry on welfare. They don't work, litter our streets, lower the property value and ruin our cities with crime.
I know this is not what you meant but it's how I feel!
I work 2 jobs and take care of myself. I love animals and man is crowding them out. I'd rather look at beautiful animals then drunk, nasty humans sitting on street corners collecting welfare money my hard earn tax dollars go to.
"The more I know people the more I like my dogs"
The one counsel member who voted against killing the ducks and geese actually lives near the water and enjoys watching the waterfowl in their natural habitat. Doesn't that say it all. The others , who have no clue, are removed from the facts of nature. I too, am sick and tired of the lame excuse that birds or animals are health hazards. It simply isn't true, they live as nature intended if they can even find a place to live. Man takes over, destroys, kills and pollutes. It is sickening.