The geese made their home on a Messalonskee Lake beach, and not even four years of harassment by Oakland town workers could convince them to leave.

The 18 homesteading geese led to a call to the state wildlife offices of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which rounded up and then euthanized the geese, causing a public outcry.

Unfortunately, the deaths of those 18 geese are the price to pay for a clean beach. If that makes people uncomfortable, they should push the town to make sure more of the birds don’t lay down roots there.

It’s unfortunate the geese met such an ending, and unfortunate that the town, because of an apparent misunderstanding with the USDA, missed an opportunity to make further nonlethal attempts at shooing them away.

But it is unlikely that those geese were going anywhere unless they were taken by force. And with the goose population booming, there are few places to put them, not only in Maine, but in other states, many of which are having the same life-or-death debate that took place in Oakland.

Even if the geese were taken elsewhere, they more than likely would have just become someone else’s problem for a short time before finding their way back to Oakland.

That’s because geese become very attached to their place of birth, and return there each year, regardless of the distance. New York, which exported some of its geese to other states — including Maine — before the nationwide population boom, found that out the hard way.

“Banding studies have shown that many relocated geese return to their initial capture locations by the following summer,” according to the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. “Some have returned to New York State from as far away as Maine, South Carolina and Oklahoma.”

And the birds obviously found the Oakland beach area attractive, despite efforts by the town to chase them away.

The town has to now step up those efforts. Biologists recommend a number of techniques — trained dogs, discontinued feeding by the public, habitat modification — done persistently through a long time period.

Now that one flock is gone, it’s the town’s job to make sure another one doesn’t take its place.


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