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Summer 2013 - Act•ionLine

by VAL KAYE | Summer 2013

PAR FOR THE COURSE?

CANADA GEESE TARGETED ON NORTHEASTERN GOLF COURSES

Canada geese, native to North America, are beloved by devoted bird-watchers and casual park visitors alike.  Emotionally intelligent birds, the geese bond strongly to their families and communities.

The profusion of artificial lakes and ponds around recreational parks has invited Canada geese to reside in some areas of the United States year-round.  Parks offer perfect conditions for geese to settle and reproduce.  Open space provides good visibility when predators draw near.  And though there are civilized methods to safely and effectively deter geese from nesting on recreational parks and golf greens, some land managers have opted for a quick and deadly fix. 

In Connecticut, a group of hunters entered Richter Park Golf Course in Danbury, with the aim of killing geese living there.   

And in New York City parks, since roundups and gassings of Canada geese began in 2009, hundreds of golf-course geese have been apprehended and killed by federal agriculture agents during the birds’ summer flightless phase.

Eric Yount is the course superintendent at Dyker Beach golf course, a municipal park in Brooklyn, New York.  Yount admits to using “harassment techniques” but won’t kill geese.

“They eat the grass — but then, we make it better for them when we fertilize it,” Yount told us. 

“It’s like growing superfood for them.  I don’t think killing them is necessary.  Mother Nature dictates a lot of what we do here and we have to adapt to her, not the other way around.”

Yount and several other managers were open to discussing how they handle geese.  But Robert Dorsch, superintendent at Connecticut’s Richter Park, did not return phone calls.  Other Richter Park employees lack the knowledge to answer our questions.  They don’t know why geese are being shot around the golf course, let alone so close to humans and pets.

A greens keeper at a City of New York Parks and Recreation golf club in Queens County, who spoke anonymously, said the nearby Douglaston Golf Course and Marine Park Golf Course in Brooklyn have killed geese, but not with guns:  “It’s too dangerous to shoot in the New York City area.  They just call the USDA to take care of it for them.  They don’t have time to try lots of things out; they have to get the people into the parks when the season opens.”

Shooting permission is comparatively easy to get in Connecticut.  Kelly Kubik manages the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Migratory Gamebird Program at the Franklin Swamp Wildlife Management Area.  Kubik told us that depredation permits can be requested online — for free if the geese are not migratory. An applicant must be a licensed hunter with a firearm purchaser identification card and the landowner’s permission to shoot.  The DEEP website says Connecticut allows “lethal control of resident Canada geese outside of regulated hunting seasons and without a Federal permit.  These actions include the destruction of resident Canada goose nests and eggs and the take of adult geese.”

People’s refusal to co-exist with nature, their sense of self-entitlement, is behind the prevailing view in wildlife agencies of Canada geese as a “nuisance species” that needs to be managed, either through killing or harassment.  Techniques include invasive, misguided practices like egg addling and oiling, deploying goose-chasing dogs, and setting up pyrotechnics and propane cannons to frighten the birds.

But unless landscapes and habitats are modified, geese will return to attractive areas. Friends of Animals’ Canada Goose Habitat Modification Manual has details and solutions.  Often, goose droppings are the actual “nuisance”— not the geese.  Of course, the first response from groundskeepers should involve a protocol to clean up the droppings.

What You Can Do

Call recreational areas and golf courses to find out if they permit killing of Canada geese.  If they do, then urge them to stop.

Contact your local representatives and let them know about it.  (They might not, especially if shootings happen on private land.)  Express your concern for the geese, and for the safety of people and their pets.  Remember, your voice is connected with a vote, and representatives should respect and address your concerns.

Print out our Canada Goose Habitat Modification Manual, written by ornithologist Donald Heintzelman. Or order multiple copies from our online store.  Distribute copies to course managers, community leaders, people running for office, and active members of the community.

And don’t forget to tell them Friends of Animals sent you.

VAL KAYE

Act•ionLine Summer 2013

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