Fowling up the greens July 22, 2008
Obnoxius geese drive residents to act
Loud honking. Bird poop everywhere. And no relief in sight.
The residents tried everything they knew to get rid of the Canada geese that had invaded their east Montgomery subdivisions, Wynlakes Golf and Country Club and Arrowhead Country Club.
As a last resort, they called in the feds.
The wildlife biologists obliged, catching and humanely killing more than 100 of the fowl.
"We are only reactive," said Jerry Feist of the USDA Wildlife Services. "Any neighborhood that calls us will have tried hazing and harassment efforts, and they will have been ineffective."
Alabama's conservation department gets plenty of calls about Canada geese every year and the number increases in molting season -- about now -- when the birds can't fly, said David Hayden of the department's Wildlife and Freshwater Division.
"They're usually feeding in one location," Hayden said. "They look for the best thing to graze on, and real nice yards and golf courses are perfect for them."
Residents of Wynlakes know that's right. The 1,053-home neighborhood surrounds the Wynlakes Golf and Country Club's 200-acre golf course. Many homes back up to the course or its 14 lakes.
The course's general manager, Janine Schoudel, contacted the USDA for the Wynlakes Homeowners' Association.
"This resulted in concerns from residents that the geese are contaminating the lakes and swimming pools, scalping lawns, and creating a high noise level," Schoudel said.
The geese indeed feed on grasses and make noise, but the worst offense -- without a doubt -- is the manure produced after each meal, said Jimmy Smitherman of the Montgomery County Extension System.
"They can foul the public areas," Smitherman said of the birds and their manure.
"It's a nutrient and can serve as a fertilizer source," he said. "In a pond, they can add nutrients that cause algae blooms. Sometimes those (nutrients) are desirable and sometimes they are undesirable."
The golf course at Arrowhead Country Club shares most of its borders with homes in the Towne Lake and Arrowhead neighborhoods. The geese made themselves right at home on the club's seven ponds.
"They come in and raise their young," said Leon Willis of the Towne Lake Homeowner's Association. "A momma and daddy would walk around with four or five new ones every time you'd turn around."
The Arrowhead club had no choice but to remove the geese because of the hazards to golfers and other animals, said Azlyn Justice, events coordinator.
"The geese would get stressed, then they would chase after the golfers," Justice said. "There are balls going into the fairway, and people don't want to hit them ... ."
Canada goose populations are getting out of control in urban areas because the birds live so long.
"The geese have no predators there, and most of these geese live about 15 years ... each female can have up to 88 young in her life," Feist said.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals thinks the solution to keeping the birds in check is to modify landscaping and hardscaping to create geese-averse environments, said Stephanie Bell, a PETA cruelty casework manager.
"You can continue to remove live animals, but if the enticing habitat isn't changed, you will continue to have geese flocking to the area," she said.
Hayden, the state wildlife expert, suggested another method of population control is hunting -- when and where allowed.
"If you do take the opportunity to hunt them, it reduces the numbers and, probably more importantly, it makes the birds become weary of humans," he said.
Hunting inside the city limits isn't legal so residents have to try and scare the birds away, and then they have no choice but to have them removed periodically.
"We'd certainly like them to be humanely euthanized rather than cruelly killed or shot by amateur hunters who often maim and cripple animals with birdshot," Bell said. "One of our other concerns with Canada Geese is that they mate for life. Very often, in the process when they are hunted or removed, they lose their one partner."
Willis was a little sad to see the birds removed from Arrowhead Country Club -- even as noisy and messy as they were.
"I kind of liked them," he said. "They're like small airplanes coming in to land."
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