Lancaster farming. (Lancaster, Pa., etc.) 1955-current, March 05, 1994, Image 50

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    Bio-Lancaster Farming,
Certified Canada Geese Often Outwear Welcome
Pat Durkin
National Geographic
News Service
CHANTILLY, Va. Jetliners
thunder overhead. Cars swish by.
It’s a far cry from the wild.
But the hubbub doesn’t faze
several hundred Canada geese that
have made their home in a shallow
pond surrounded by highways and
hotels on the approach to
Washington Dulles International
The flock has lived here for
nearly 10 years, despite numerous
attempts to relocate it The swan
size, gray-and-black birds forage
on highway median strips or
waddle among airport motels
looking for guests willing to part
with their breakfast.
The birds are part of a
mushrooming community of
Canada geese believed to be
descendants of birds raised by
humans years ago. They don’t
mind people, machines or noise.
They don’t migrate; they find a
spot and stay put.
In the decade that citified geese
have been multiplying, wild
flocks in the Atlantic flyway have
declined by a third. Two reasons
for the decline, experts say, are
several poor nesting years in the
arctic and reduced habitat caused
by human encroachment.
At the same time, ironically,
urban flocks of varying size have
settled in cities all over the United
States and in parts of Canada and
the British Isles. The birds have
moved onto golf courses, corpo
rate ponds and school campuses
In the past decade the Canada goose population has
exploded in parts of North America and Great Britain.
Numerous strategies have been tried to thin the flocks, but
they’re generally been unsuccessful. While non-mlgratory
urbanized birds have been multiplying, migratory wild
Canada geese have declined by one-third.
I, Saturday, March 5, 1994
almost anyplace with open
grassland and a bit of water.
Inspiringly graceful in the air,
Canada geese on the ground are
noisy and messy. The only thing
that distinguishes the city dwellers
from their country cousins' is
In small numbers, the domesti
cated geese delight nature-starved
urbanites. But without the greater
dangers of living in the wild
predators and food shortages, for
example urban goose popula
tions have exploded. East Coast
cities alone are home to more than
a million Canadas, SO times more
than a decade ago.
“They’ve been allowed to
reproduce and reproduce,” says
Martin Lowrey, Virginia director
of the U.S. Agriculture Depart
ment’s Office of Animal Damage
As flocks grow, so do com
plaints. Canada geese have fouled
beaches, contaminated drinking
water supplies, created aviation
hazards, ruined wetland
restoration projects and infre
quently attacked humans who
didn’t offer them food or came too
close to their goslings.
Limited hunts have been tried,
especially on golf courses, where
geese tear up greens. But most
urban flocks live in areas that are
too populous to allow shooting.
A host of other anti-goose tech
niques have been explored: prohi
biting feeding, replanting roosting
areas with high grass that makes
the birds wary of predators, criss
crossing wires over ponds to hin-
A young wader offers food to a Canada goose at Lake Tahoe, California. Increai ig
numbers of Canada geese are making themselves light at home with people In popul
ous areas of the United States and parts of Canada and Great Britain. As the flocks of
domesticated geese grow, so do complaints.
der take offs and landings, harass
ment by trained dogs, tethered bal
loons painted with huge eye spots,
and the use of explosives.
Most efforts have met with little
success. “These geese don’t care
what you do, they just stay,” says
Lowrey, whose office is inundated
with complaints about 30,000
Canada geese that live in the den
sely populated Virinia suburbs
outside Washington.
Most complaints, he says, are
minor. But some are serious.
Guests at an Alexandria hotel
have been bitten by irritable geese.
Feeces from a flock of 1,200 geese
that roost at a Fairfax County
sewage-treatement plant reconta
minate water newly purified for
re-release into the environment.
Complaints increase every year,
says Lowrey. But there’s only so
much his agency can do. Migrat
ing birds, including Canada geese,
are protected in the United States
under the Migratory Bird Treaty
Act, whether they actually migrate
or not. Any efforts to control
Canadas, from culling flocks to
forcing the birds to leave on their
own, must be approved by the
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
“We’re all hostage to the ser
vice,” Lowrey tells National Geo
graphic, echoing a complaint from
local officials who deal with
seemingly intractable Canada
goose problems.
Fish and Wildlife officials
admit that they’ve been overly
cautious about issuing permits to
control Canadas. They’re con
cerned that efforts to control urban
geese will counter efforts to
recover wild flocks, a higher
Attempting to address both
problems, the service has put strict
bag limits on geese taken during
the regular hunting season, while
at the same time allowing special
goose-hunting seasons during a
few warm weeks in the spring and
fall when migratory flocks remain
in the arctic.
But it’s almost impossible to
please everybody.
Hunters say the bag limits are
too strict. “Now people don’t
think we have any geese.” says
Randolph Murphy, who runs a
hunting-guide operation in Tilgh
man, Md., on the Chesapeake
Bay. “They’ve ruined a million
dollar business on the Eastern
Local officials complain that
special seasons do little to get at
the toughest situations, which
occur in urban areas.
Tennessee may be the only state
that has profited from the new reg
ulations. Promoting itself as a
goose hunters’ paradise, the state .
transports nuisance birds from
urban areas to huntable lakes just
before the special season opens.
“An unmitigated outrage,” says
Holly Morgan, a wilflife activist
in Arlington, Va. ‘They’d never
get away with it anywhere else.”
Wildlife professionals look
down their noses at people like
Morgan, but activists play an
increasing role in wildlife debates.
Until recently, urgan goose
problems have been a problem
mainly along the Atlantic Byway
Classes For
HERSHEY (Dauphin Co.)
Chocolate tasting, baking, and
making is the subject of two Her
shey Museum classes for children
ages 4-9. Cocoa Beans to Choco
late Dreams will be held on Satur
day, March 12 from 10 - 11:30
a.m. for youngsters ages 4-6. The
children will mix, bake, and ice
their own delicious chocolate cup
cakes; explore the Hershey exhib
it, and leam about chocolate pro
duction. The cost of the class is $6
for museum members, $9 for non-
and around the Great Lakes. But
rapidly multiplying urban flocks
are spreading to the Midwest and
Golfers in Reno, Nev., and
northern California have begun
goose battles. New flocks are turn
ing up all along the Northwest
The Fish and Wildlife Service,
under increasing pressure to do
something, this spring'will consid
er policy changes that would
allow cities or counties to decide
how to handle nuisance geese
“I think we can craft something
that will address the issue before it
becomes a nationwide problem,”
says Paul Schmidt, chief of the
service’s Office of Migratory Bird
But Martin Lowrey doesn’t
have much hope for community
based solutions.
“Anytime you let the whole
community decide, nothing hap
pens," he says. “The people deal
ing with the problem are always a
minority. The others always vote
in favor of the geese.”
members and participants must re
Chocolate Champs is a class for
ages 7-9 in which youngsters will
participate in a taste test, make
their own chocolate lollypops, and
work on a real reproduction line.
The registration deadline is March
18and class fee. is $7 members,
$lO non-members.
For information about these and
other musuem classes call (717)