Good luck to Winthrop’s town manager, Peter Nielsen, in getting rid of the town’s goose problem at the beach and boat landing, especially given his determination not to kill any of the geese. Apparently he hopes to relocate them so they’ll be somebody else’s problem.
An adult goose poops eight times a day, depositing one-half to 1 pound of droppings, leaving a disgusting unhealthy mess.
As I read last year in a flyer titled, “Don’t Feed the Geese”: “Goose droppings are slippery, unsanitary and unsightly. They harbor parasites that may cause human health problems, and they increase algae growth that, in turn, causes fish kills.” Yikes! Fish kills!
Geese may be Maine’s secret weapon to get homeowners to rip out their shoreside lawns to protect the quality of our lakes — ripping up your lawn is pretty much the first thing you will be required to do if you want to get rid of the geese.
Last year I attended “Coexisting with Canada Geese” at the Cary Memorial Library in Wayne. Panelists included Kendall Marden and Kelsey Sullivan, wildlife biologists with Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife; Ben Nugent, a USDA wildlife services biologist; Dave Struck, a Winthrop landscaper; and Lidie Robbins of the 30 Mile River Association.
Moderator Anne Huntington noted, “From my perspective, it is really important to address the potential problems before the (goose) population grows to nuisance levels. Community involvement and communication are really vital… Any effort to control population and/or nuisance issues really has to address public opinion and education first.”
Anne focused a lot of her presentation on those who foolishly feed geese. “Sometimes when people realize that feeding geese is really detrimental to the geese, they will stop, but it is a hard habit to break.” Indeed. “The most accurate sound bite I’ve seen regarding goose management is: ‘Response must be planned, consistent, persistent, and utilize multiple techniques including habitat modification to have any lasting effect.'”
Yes, they are talking about ripping out your lawn and planting shrubs that will discourage geese from coming ashore. Struck, the landscaper, said this is a growing part of his business — $30 shrubs planted a foot apart. That’s $3,000 to keep geese off 100 feet of your property.
The state brought geese here beginning in the 1960s to recreate a resident population for hunters. At that time, we only had geese to hunt that were migrating through Maine in the fall. But IF&W did too good a job. Now we are overrun with resident geese, and few hunters pursue them in the special September season when the bag limit is an astonishing 10 geese a day in two zones, and eight in the third zone.
Resident goose populations in Maine increase 16 percent each year. So if this is not a problem in your area yet, stand by!
We have a goose problem up at Camp Phoenix on Sourdnahunk Lake, just outside the northwest corner of Baxter State Park, and I have been assigned the task of getting rid of the geese. My chosen solution was a shotgun, so I was very disappointed to hear Nugent, the biologist, say that I can’t shoot the geese until I get a federal depredation permit. “It takes years before we give permission to shoot them,” he said.
It doesn’t seem reasonable to me that we force people to spend lots of money, and transform their property, to save geese for hunters who will be able to shoot 10 a day later in the year. Is that really fair to property owners who are plagued by geese, and whose health is threatened by goose poop?
I noted at the forum that most of the repellents that can be sprayed around the yard to deter geese are not legal in Maine. Those that are legal can’t be used within 25 feet of the water.
As we went through the list of techniques to discourage geese, I noted that none of them work for long — even fencing, which geese go around or over. You can harass them, but they actually get used to it. Strobe lights, alarms, distress calls, propane canisters on timers, coyote decoys — nothing works, except the shotgun.
And oh yeah, ripping up the lawn and planting $30 shrubs.
Shotgun shells are a lot less expensive.
But then I remembered what Ken Martin, a Wayne resident, said at the forum. He was battling a goose problem at the local yacht club. He went over at all hours to drive them off. And the club has no lawn!
Ben Nugent did tell me that if we shot one or two geese, and utilized other non-lethal techniques, we’d get rid of them. “You don’t usually have to shoot more than that,” he said.
I left the event with that firmly in my mind.
George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected] Read more of Smith’s writings at www.georgesmith maine.com.