Mill Creek won’t seek geese roundup, euthanasia permit next year


SEE ALSO: Geese Control Measures

By Peter H. Milliken

milliken@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

Mill Creek MetroParks officials have continued nonlethal goose- management strategies, and they don’t intend to apply for another goose roundup and euthanasia permit next June, park officials said.

“The MetroParks has been actively performing Canada goose management for many years, and we continue to do so,” said Kirsten Peetz, MetroParks’ natural resources manager.

Three months since the June 26 roundup and euthanasia of 238 geese at the Lily Pond, Lake Glacier and the Newport Wetlands, park police have written six tickets and issued four warnings to violators of the park rule against feeding wildlife, said Lt. Randy Campana of the MetroParks police.

Park police issued the first citation July 2 at the Lily Pond, but, by then, they had issued 66 warnings, mostly oral, for feeding wildlife since the park launched an anti-feeding public awareness campaign in the spring of 2013, according to James Willock, MetroParks police chief.

Since June 26, six new signs telling park visitors not to feed wildlife have been posted at Mirror Pond, on the west sides of Lakes Glacier and Cohasset and at the Newport Wetlands.

Wildlife experts discourage feeding waterfowl because it encourages many birds to congregate in a small area, thereby causing unsanitary conditions.

A dog continues to harass geese at the Wick Recreation Area; facility managers have pyrotechnics for use as needed to scare geese away; and the park continues to evaluate opportunities to change habitats in places where geese cause damage or congregate in large numbers, Peetz said.

Among the habitat modifications suggested by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources are planting tall vegetation along lake and pond shores to discourage geese from congregating there and planting less palatable grasses, such as tall fescue, which has a bitter taste.

ODNR issued the permit MetroParks officials requested before the U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted the roundup and euthanasia.

“The result of the goose roundup was what we were expecting. We have reduced the number of geese in the three targeted areas, which has created a more manageable population, and the wildlife feeding by the public has decreased noticeably,” said Dennis Miller, MetroParks executive director.

“This, in turn, has created a cleaner, safer environment for Mill Creek MetroParks visitors to enjoy,” he added.

EGG Destruction

Although the park won’t seek a roundup and euthanasia permit next year, it will apply for another goose- egg destruction permit from ODNR for next spring, Peetz said.

“To be effective, this type of population management must be performed each nesting season,” Peetz explained.

After a public outcry after the roundup and euthanasia, Miller said at the August MetroParks board meeting that he hopes to avoid additional lethal roundups and will seek public comment in advance if any lethal measures are proposed.

June’s lethal roundup occurred without a public hearing in advance and without a formal authorizing resolution in advance by the park Board of Commissioners.

The park’s nonlethal goose management has been insufficient, said Jeff Harvey, president of the Audubon Society of the Mahoning Valley.

“The enforcement’s been pretty haphazard,” he said of the few tickets and warnings written by park police.

‘let the grasses grow’

“I’d like to see them start to just let the grasses grow,” around pond and lake shores to make it more difficult for geese to walk in and out of the water and to make them more wary of predators that may hide in the grass, Harvey said.

“The geese like to see. The grasses have to be at least as high as the geese to deter them,” from congregating, he explained.

With migration now underway, no accurate count of geese in the park can be obtained until late May or June of next year, Harvey said.

“Then, we’ll know whether or not what they’re doing is successful,” Harvey said.

Lynsey White Dasher, director of humane wildlife conflict resolution for the Humane Society of the United States, said she’s not satisfied with the park’s efforts.

“They have many of the necessary elements for a humane program, but they’re not applying them correctly or at the right time,” Dasher said.

The park’s plan says it harasses geese during nesting season, she said.

“You never want to harass geese during nesting season because the geese will move somewhere else to nest, and it will be harder to find their nests,” she explained.

For an effective egg destruction program, the geese should be left alone during nesting season, except for the destruction of their eggs, she said. “That way, you can find the nests year to year,” and assure destruction of all of the eggs, she explained.

Dasher also faulted the park for not using a specially- trained dog.

An untrained dog will simply chase geese into the water, but a specially-trained goose dog will enter the water “and herd them up and out of the water,” Dasher explained.

She lamented that park officials have refused the Humane’s Society’s offer to train park staff in geese- management techniques, despite the “decades of experience” the society has in applying these techniques.

park response

In response to comments from Harvey and Dasher, Samantha L. Villella, MetroParks’ community engagement director, said the park “stands by” its goose- management practices.

Since 2010, the park has followed ODNR’s recommendations and schedules for harassment, egg destruction, habitat modification and public education; and it will continue those nonlethal methods, working with ODNR and other organizations to manage the geese, she said.

For several months, answers to frequently-asked questions about the park’s goose-management practices have been posted on the park’s website, millcreekmetroparks.org, she noted.

During the spring 2015 geese nesting season, park officials will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of their actions in 2014, she added.

Dennis Miller, who authorized the controversial roundup and euthanasia, resigned Monday from his $87,500-a-year post as MetroParks’ executive director, effective at year’s end, to become golf director at The Lake Club in Springfield Township.

ODNR’s View

Laura Graber, an Akron- based ODNR wildlife research technician who issued the permits for this year’s egg destruction, geese roundup and euthanasia, said the fact that only 10 percent of the geese euthanized were goslings indicates that the park’s egg-destruction efforts have succeeded.

The park should focus, and has focused, its geese- harassment efforts on areas of the park where concentrations of geese have caused problems, which is where the roundup occurred, she noted.

It is unnecessary and likely impossible to keep geese out of the entire park, Graber added.

“Take the time to explain why it is bad to feed wildlife,” Graber urged park officials. “If someone continues to feed after they have been warned, then they should be cited,” she said.

“I’m sure the roundup was effective, but the true results will be shown next spring when nesting season sets in,” she concluded.

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