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To the ramparts—repel the geese PDF Print E-mail
Written by Ozaukee Press   
Wednesday, 17 July 2013 14:39

The city will have to fight to defend Port Washington’s newest park from lazy wildfowl that prefer urban life to migrating

Being kind to animals is a fine human trait, but there are times when being kind to animals is unkind to humans. Welcome to those times.

    Formerly wild animals—right here in civilized Ozaukee County—are damaging human property, laying waste to human vegetable and flower gardens, endangering humans on streets and highways, dispossessing humans from their recreational lands and fouling human spaces to the point of creating a menace to human health.

    This is no time for saccharine notions about coexisting with encroaching wildlife. If our forebears had been afflicted with such sentiments, we wouldn’t be here—they would have been eaten by bears or wolves.

    Property owners are on their own trying to deal with the predations of deer, turkeys and wildfowl that prefer snacking in their backyards and gardens over the hard work of foraging elsewhere.

    But where public property is concerned, government officials are going to have to face a responsibility to defend taxpayer-owned land and facilities from usurpation by creatures that were meant to be wild but have developed a predilection for the comforts of urban life.

    A small step in that direction came last week from the Port Washington Harbor Commission when it recommended that the Common Council adopt an ordinance making it illegal to feed wildfowl in the city.

    The commission was reacting to the mess being created at the north end of the marina by geese and ducks. The fowl like that locale anyway, but now they’re especially fond of it because people have been feeding them, often right in front of a sign requesting, “Please don’t feed the birds.”

    The motivation of the feeders is mystifying. The birds don’t need the food—they’re plump to the point of being obese from junk food (which is just about anything humans feed them) and lack of exercise. The idea is probably to get up close and personal with “wild” creatures, though you don’t need to feed them to do that. The Canada geese and mallard ducks are so secure in the marina neighborhood you can just about pet them.

    So, by all means, pass the no-feeding ordinance and replace the “please don’t” sign with an “it’s the law” sign. Then post a bunch of the signs around the soon-to-open Coal Dock Park, the site of the next big man-against-wildfowl battle.

    Referring to the looming battle, City Administrator Mark Grams predicted, “It’s going to be a huge problem.” That’s right, but probably an understatement. Until construction work started on Coal Dock Park, the land east of the power plant was a preferred gathering place for an immense flock of geese.

    What does this portend for the park? Do the math. Each Canada goose produces up to two pounds of excrement a day. Hundreds have been known to assemble there on a single day. Anyone for a walk in the park?

    Allaying this nuisance is going to take a lot more than an ordinance, of course, such as some tax dollars. Look at it as a necessary expense like plowing snow from streets and public walkways and cutting grass in the parks.

    Canada geese have managed to surpass deer as the most annoying wildlife encroachment problem because they adapt so easily to urbanization. Given a ready supply of food (available just about anywhere near the water even without generous humans), a place to lay eggs (which they do frequently, resulting in about four new geese a year from each pair) and protection from hunters and predators, they’re happy to give up their migrating ways and reside beside humans.

    Cities across the country are fighting occupation of their territory by masses of geese. Weapons include dog and coyote decoys, devices such as the Goosinator and Goose Buster that make noises to annoy geese, repellent sprays, recordings of dogs barking (probably more annoying to humans than geese), goose repellent sprays, oiling goose eggs to make them infertile and hiring a goose dog service.

    Just because it sounds like it might be effective to have dogs (border collies are the canines of choice) harass the geese regularly, we recommend the goose dog option.

    We do not recommend the remedy that a number of East Coast cities have tried—rounding up the geese and killing them. That would be an affront to the kindness-to-animals trait.

    Besides, the experts say it doesn’t work. New flocks quickly fill the space vacated by their euthanized brethren.    

    Let the battle begin.

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