Saturday, July 26, 2008
Regency Lakes management asks that geese be removed
By Eric Beidel
The Winchester Star
Winchester — The city government’s decision to contact federal agents and have them remove more than 200 geese from the Wilkins Lake area has pleased some and angered others.
On June 27, the agents took 180 Canada geese and 30 domestic geese from the lake and surrounding ponds in Jim Barnett Park off Pleasant Valley Road. The animals were taken to meat processing plants, euthanized, and processed for food.
Some of the meat will go to food banks, some to zoos, officials said.
The lake had become overcrowded with geese, causing health issues for the fish in the lake and human visitors, city officials said.
Those who frequent the lake will notice the lack of geese, and some will be relieved.
Others, such as Clara Wakefield of Winchester, have signed a petition expressing their disappointment with the handling of the situation.
A longtime wildlife rescuer, Wakefield and about 40 others have signed the petition, which in a week or so will be delivered to city officials.
It states that those who have signed it “are heartbroken” by the deaths of the geese.
“A lot of people loved those geese,” Wakefield said.
Just east of the city, in the Regency Lakes subdivision off Va. 7 (Berryville Pike) in Frederick County, Canada geese remain in abundance.
A series of man-made lakes at the development has become home to about 120 of the geese, according to residents of the community.
On Wednesday, some of the geese were on the lakes, some at the edge of them. Dozens more stalked around people’s yards, right up to porches and doors.
And some slowly crossed the main road into the subdivision, causing motorists to stop and wait.
Hometown America, the management company of the residential community, has followed the city officials’ lead and contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Christiansburg, the office that handled the removal of the geese at Wilkins Lake.
While the USDA says Regency Lakes would qualify for a removal operation due to its high number of resident geese, the management company hasn’t decided if it will follow through with the request.
The price tag may be too much.
The city government paid $2,800 to the USDA to have the geese removed from Wilkins Lake.
The operation carried out at Wilkins Lake is fairly common these days in Virginia.
Each year, the federal agency handles about 20 similar situations in the state, said Chad Fox, USDA district supervisor in Christiansburg.
The overpopulated geese generally are killed after being removed from an area.
Canada geese are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. That means an average citizen cannot take it upon himself to kill one.
A federal permit is required.
Organizations such as GeesePeace in Falls Church work with governments to find non-fatal, long-term solutions to wildlife vs. human conflicts.
The New Jersey-based Geese Police Inc. has branches that serve Virginia and Maryland. The company uses border collies to humanely chase away geese.
“We don’t harm them in any way. We don’t even touch them,” the company’s Web site states. “We just convince them to move on their way.”
An evil eye from the stalking dogs is enough, according to the company.
Like Wakefield, some have wondered why the geese at Wilkins Lake couldn’t have been relocated to a remote lake.
Waterfowl experts from the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries say that it has become practice in the state to not relocate Canada geese.
Such an act is considered by the department as moving a nuisance from one place to another.
Canada geese were once considered a temporary nuisance around golf courses, parks, and other urban areas.
They would stop for a while, then fly to another place.
Over time, though, more and more have stayed put. They find easy pickings in parks or around residences near constant water sources.
If people feed them, it’s all the more reason for them to stick around.
“Resident” Canada geese — the ones that stay year-round — can overpopulate a location and cause disruptions in day-to-day activities for some people.
That’s what happened at Wilkins Lake, officials said.
The overabundance of goose waste led to massive algae growth in the lake. The extra algae robbed oxygen from the fish.
A few weeks before the geese were removed, about 50 fish died in Wilkins Lake. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality attributed the kill to a combination of high temperature and low oxygen levels in the water.
The USDA handles geese removals for about a month each summer when the birds are molting and cannot fly.
For this year, that period will end in a couple of weeks.
PLEASE READ THESE ARTICLES:
GEESE ARE NOT A HEALTH THREAT
DO CANADA GEESE POSE A HEALTH RISK?