By Peter H. Milliken
Mill Creek MetroParks must step up enforcement of the park rule against feeding geese or the state won’t issue additional permits for roundup and euthanasia of the waterfowl.
That condition was attached to the permit the park system sought, and the state issued, for the June 26 roundup, in which the U.S. Department of Agriculture euthanized 238 geese at Mill Creek Park’s Lily Pond, Lake Glacier and Newport Wetlands.
It was the first goose roundup and euthanasia in Mill Creek Park’s 123-year history, said Samantha L. Villella, MetroParks community engagement director.
USDA said it is charging the MetroParks $2,283 for the costs of the roundup and killing of the geese.
“The goose-roundup permit is approved with the understanding that enforcement will occur at a much higher level than current to stop the feeding of geese within the Mill Creek MetroPark system,” wrote Laura Graber, Ohio Department of Natural Resources wildlife research technician, on the document authorizing the permit’s issuance.
“No permits will be approved if this is not followed in 2015,” Graber added.
Park policy bans feeding wildlife, including waterfowl, with the exception of placement of seed or suet at song bird feeders.
Park police will continue to enforce that rule, Villella said. Violators face fines of up to $150 for the first offense and up to $500 for subsequent offenses.
Park officials have posted signs and issued a card urging the public not to feed wildlife to avoid creating unsanitary conditions.
Park police have issued 66 warnings, mostly oral, for feeding wildlife since park officials launched a public-awareness campaign in spring 2013, said James Willock, MetroParks police chief.
They issued their first citation Wednesday at the Lily Pond, where an anti-feeding sign is posted, he said, adding that park police will increase enforcement efforts.
HOW DECISION WAS MADE
Dennis Miller, park executive director, approved the June 26 roundup and euthanasia with the support of park commissioners, but the commissioners did not adopt any resolution calling for the action, Villella said.
“It is not necessary for the board of park commissioners to vote on matters that are overseen by administration,” Villella explained.
No formal scientific or naturalist study of Mill Creek Park’s goose population has been performed, but park staff counted geese in recent months at Lake Glacier and the Newport Wetlands, Villella said.
“We do not have any official documentation because they were informal, cursory counts,” Villella said.
A USDA document prepared June 16 said up to 120 geese had been observed near the Lily Pond.
“It’s a sad occurrence in a great park,” Jeff Harvey, president of the Audubon Society of the Mahoning Valley, said of the June 26 event.
Harvey said, however, he was expressing his own opinions, and that the society has not taken a position on the matter.
“How do I know there is an overpopulation problem?” in the absence of a scientific or naturalist survey of the geese population, Harvey asked.
“Because there’s no information, the only thing that rules the way people think is emotion,” Harvey added.
Harvey said he has attended almost every park board meeting during the last four years and recalls no board vote concerning geese management and no discussion of goose roundup and euthanasia.
“There should have been a public informational meeting so they could tell the public what the problem was and tell them, ‘Here are our options,’” Harvey said.
He said he doesn’t know if the roundup and euthanasia were justified “because not enough information has been given to make an intelligent decision.”
ODNR did not request or require a formal study, park board resolution or executive letter before issuing the roundup and euthanasia permit, Graber said.
“It’s all done by visual, going out and looking at the problem,” Graber said, adding that she has visited Mill Creek Park at least three times since 2009, including a June 3 visit, to view the geese and their impact on the park.
This year’s permit process began with a Jan. 28 complaint filed with ODNR on an online form completed by Kirsten Peetz, MetroParks natural resources manager.
On the form, Peetz cited the feeding of geese by humans and the threats to health and water quality caused by excessive feces from geese, but Peetz entered zero for the estimate of any financial cost of damage caused by the geese.
There was no formal written roundup and euthanasia permit application. “Our permits are done through word of mouth,” Graber said.
On March 13, Peetz emailed Graber, saying MetroParks officials were “experimenting with some pyrotechnics” to discourage geese from congregating, including a gun with screamer siren cartridges, a green-laser pointer and a floating amber flashing light.
“Once you notice eggs being laid, give me a call or send me an email, and I’ll approve your egg destruction permit,” Graber replied by email less than an hour later.
The printed permit for the roundup and euthanasia said no goslings were to be killed, and all goslings had to be humanely transported to a state wildlife area.
But Graber said she later gave oral approval for goslings to be euthanized and that goslings were euthanized in the June 26 roundup.
In that roundup, kayakers herded geese ashore, where they were fenced in and euthanized with carbon dioxide gas in a trailer-mounted chamber.