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Canada geese making a mess in Struthers



Published: Fri, August 24, 2007 @ 2:00 a.m.

One official had this warning: Don’t feed the birds.

By ANGIE SCHMITT

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

STRUTHERS — The traffic delays, honking and that odor, not from cars, but from a large flock of Canada geese, has residents here crying foul.

“It’s a constant battle,” said Tom Creed, 46, of Lakeshore Drive near Hamilton Lake. “Geese defecate all over your driveway and yard. If we don’t get a handle on this soon, literally, people won’t be able to drive down the street.”

Lori Diorio, the city’s environmental health director, organized a meeting with Ohio Department of Wildlife officials Thursday after receiving several complaints from city residents. Forty residents of the Hamilton Lake area attended.

“What would be most beneficial to you would be a coordinated attack,” wildlife official Jeff Westerfield urged the audience “I like to call it a ‘goose committee.’”

Goose complaints are common at the department, Westerfield said. His recommendation? “I focus heavily, heavily, on harassment, mainly by chasing,” he said.

Westerfield advised residents to chase the birds, in pairs, with air horns, even with remote-controlled boats, particularly during mating season, which is February and March.

Residents complained that they have been chasing the geese for years, but the population continues to multiply.

“I am out there with my blow horn, a stick and a silver pan and as soon as I turn my back, they’re right back there,” one resident shouted.

Fighting the problem

Other ODW-recommended goose-controlling tactics include the use of pyrotechnics, laser pointers and grape-flavored repellents.

Westerfield said he would be willing to issue a permit to allow residents to shake the goose eggs, killing the unborn goslings. Any use of explosives, however, would have to be cleared with the police department, he said.

In the 1940s and 1950s, unregulated hunting threatened Canada geese populations, said Allen Lea, an ODW wildlife management supervisor. Today, federal law protects the large waterfowl. But the birds often become overbearing in residential areas, he added.

“In these urban settings, they’re afforded a lot of protection because there’s no predators and no hunting allowed,” Lea said.

It is illegal to discharge a firearm within city limits, said John Sveda, city safety director, who himself is plagued by goose problems.

“It’s nothing for me to have sometimes 40 geese in my backyard,” he said.

Westerfield provided residents with a month-by-month plan to fight the geese population. But there aren’t any overnight solutions, he added. Canada geese eat grass, and each bird returns to its birthplace every year.

“How long will residents need to continue the goose harassment?” asked one resident.

“Every year until you guys fill in that lake or cement your grass,” Westerfield replied.

Feeding the birds also can contribute to overpopulation. “We need to not feed the wildlife,” he said. “We need to let them fend for themselves.”

Hand-feeding also causes geese to be more aggressive with humans, Diorio added. Geese that are conditioned to human feeding have been known to abandon their natural fear of humans and attack adults, children and pets during the nesting season, which is March through June, wildlife officials say.

The department says Canada geese don’t need any assistance in the reproduction department. In just a few years, a pair of geese can easily become 50 to 100 birds.


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