WINTHROP — Justin Wildman brings his 5-year-old daughter to Maranacook Lake at least twice a week to swim, but the summer arrival of 14 geese — and the waste they produce — has him worried.

“It concerns me, the possibility of kids putting water in their mouths,” Wildman said Tuesday as he sat on a picnic bench and watched his daughter Athena, who was splashing around in Maranacook Lake. “There are diseases and parasites.”

Wildman said he comes to Winthrop because it’s the nearest beach to his home in Livermore Falls. He usually spends time with his daughter every other weekend, he said, and he has noticed the goose droppings in the area. The geese have taken up residence on and around Norcross Point, a grassy piece of land just east of the town beach that includes a boat ramp, a veterans memorial, a walking path and a playground.

That’s worried some citizens who frequent the lakeside area and let their kids use the beach and playground, as well as town officials who have been fielding their complaints and trying to drive the fowl away.

In fact, the town has been making some efforts to scare off the geese, but so far they have not succeeded, said Town Manager Peter Nielsen.

Two weeks ago, the town planted menacing, plastic replicas of coyotes with arched backs and bared teeth on Norcross Point. A week ago, they posted signs warning people against feeding the birds. On July 4, they launched fireworks that, though unrelated to the geese, had potential to scare them away.

The birds were scarce last week, but they returned by early this week, Nielsen said. He is now looking into services that could relocate the birds to another body of water.

“They’re contributing their droppings to that area,” Nielsen said. “You can’t ignore the health effects of something like that.”

But while Nielsen is looking at the possibility of relocating the birds with the hope that they won’t come back, he said there is one thing he won’t do: have the animals killed.

Nielsen was the town manager of Oakland in 2014 when a gaggle of geese moved in and began befouling that town’s beach on Messalonskee Lake. The town contacted state and federal wildlife officials, who ended up capturing and euthanizing the offending birds, leading to public outrage.

At the time and in an interview this week, Nielsen said he was led to believe that the wildlife officials were only going to capture and relocate the animals, not kill them. He strenuously objected to that outcome.

“That will not happen again,” Nielsen said. “The one thing I don’t want is to harm the animals. There’s no greater animal lover than me.”

This time around, Nielsen said he is not reaching out to state or federal officials for help with resolving the goose situation, but he declined to offer specifics about the services he is looking into for relocating the animals.

He also said he is welcoming suggestions from the public about how to deal with them.

When it comes to public health, goose feces can contain germs such as E. coli and Salmonella, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When digested, those bacteria can sometimes lead to diarrhea, fever, cramps, urinary tract infections and respiratory illness.

Bird excrement can also carry cryptosporidium, aka Crypto, a microscopic parasite that causes diarrheal disease and is most commonly spread through water. When goose feces contaminate swimming areas, they can lead to a skin rash known as swimmer’s itch.

According to Nielsen, the geese have primarily stayed on Norcross Point, which is a couple hundred feet away from the swimming area at the town beach.

Still, area residents aren’t happy about their encroachment.

“The families of geese down at the local beach are pooping every where and ruining the lawn of the beach and (Norcross Point),” Gina Pomerleau, a Monmouth resident, wrote on a Winthrop community Facebook page last month. “Any ideas on what we can do about this??!? It is so gross.”

On a recent afternoon, the geese were in the water at the southern end of Maranacook Lake, where Summer Street crosses the railroad tracks. Their whitish-green waste was scattered about Norcross Point, but seemed most concentrated at the boat ramp. A few kayaks, sailboats and jet skis could be seen heading northward into the main section of the lake.

Over at the town beach, about 20 kids and adults were swimming and sunbathing, including Wildman and his daughter Athena. Though she wouldn’t like it, Wildman said that his daughter would be taking a shower when they got home.

Bridgett DeBlois was sitting nearby, babysitting two nephews and a niece, each between 4 and 8 years old. The kids were standing knee deep in the lake, looking for fish and ready to go to the playground at Norcross Point.

DeBlois, of Winthrop, said she has a cousin who once got E. coli from swallowing lake water, so she made sure there wasn’t goose poop at that section of beach before letting the kids swim.

A third group of people, Betsy and Craig Dufour of Wayne, were sitting at a picnic table on Norcross Point. They said they usually go there to walk a couple times a week, but have been enjoying the area less because of the droppings that they must now avoid stepping in.

“It would be nice if they would clean it up,” Betsy Dufour said.

The town has been sending workers to clean the area twice a week, Nielsen said.

Besides the health risks presented by the fecal matter, Nielsen also said he heard an “unsubstantiated, secondhand report” of a recreational boater who was prevented from leaving a vessel because geese were standing guard over the dock at the boat ramp.

But Nielsen is still looking at longer term solutions. That includes doubling down on the advice that people shouldn’t be feeding the animals, as it can give them an incentive to stay in Winthrop.

“I’m in contact with folks who said, ‘If there is not something to eat, they’ll go,'” Nielsen said.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @ceichacker

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