by Nicole Rivard
Seeing newborn wildlife in the springtime never gets old, especially Canada goose goslings. The sight of their fluffy, yellowish down bodies waddling around, pecking grasses with their parents, brings joy.
Goslings hatch with their eyes open and leave the nest within 24 hours, following their parents. They can walk, swim, feed and even dive at just one to two days old, depending on the conditions.
In less than two months, the goslings develop adult feathers and learn to fly. By the time they are two months old they are 25 times bigger than they were at birth. Research indicates they are even aware of various hazards lurking in the environment around them throughout their first summer. They’re known to be afraid of fox footprints on the ground or a bird of prey swooping overhead. Young goslings may be preyed upon by snapping turtles, gulls, owls, and coyotes.
Little do they know though, that as adults, their biggest threat will be impatient, intolerant humans who have an issue with cleaning up after them— especially during molting, their flightless period.
Long flights put a lot of strain on their feathers. Each summer, as they are raising and enjoying their families, Canada geese molt out the old, worn feathers and grow new ones from late June through mid-August. They will select open areas near water and a food source so they can walk or swim everywhere that they need while grounded. Ponds, lakes and bays serve as excellent locations, as well mowed lawns, parks, and golf courses.
So while the beginning of summer coupled with Fourth of July celebrations signify people’s favorite time of the year—for Canada geese it’s anything but. This time of year brings out the worst in people. Harassment measures and even worse, geese roundups and slaughter take place because intolerant people think their community will be overcome with feces. It’s absurd.
Friends of Animals gets many calls in the spring and summer from concerned members who are upset that their condo complex, retirement community or lake association are approving egg addling, other harassment measures and even worse, geese roundups and slaughter, because they believe there are too many in their respective areas. Egg addling—oiling, shaking, or puncturing an egg during incubation until the embryo is unviable—is barbaric.
These places don’t have a Canada goose population problem—the problem is people who don’t want to clean up after wildlife. But as humans continue to encroach on wildlife habitat, they need to learn how to live in harmony with the waterfowl.
But since Canada geese have a remarkable ability to adapt to human settings, special attention to cleanup has become essential. And the truth is, these days it’s easier than ever to institute clean-up programs that rid an area of goose droppings.
For instance, in the U.S., Georgia-based manufacturer Tow and Farm offers different size pieces of equipment—its Tow and Collect series—that provide an efficient method of collecting goose feces.
In Ontario, Canada, Paul Elliot was in demand cleaning up poop. He says he was the first one to use the Tow and Collect mini 700 to pick up goose poop from a 15-acre municipal park along Lake Barrie. The township of Oro-Medonte, between Barrie and Orillia, employed him two days a week for approximately seven years before the municipality decided to buy its own machine for its workers.
Elliot was a popular guy during that time, he recalls.
“Whoever is doing the cleanup of the geese will never have a bad word said to them. You are only helpful. You are very much appreciated,” Elliot recalled.
What Elliot was doing for the township was even appreciated by surrounding cities, like Toronto, which is about an hour away. Residents would make specific drives up to the park because it was so clean and their own parks were littered with goose feces.
Elliot said the township used the non-resident park usage fee to defray the costs of paying him for his services. He said it would take him about 2 ½ hours to do the entire park.
“The sweepers are fantastic. They do the job simply, quickly, efficiently. It’s just a marvel to work with them. No problem at all,” he said.
Not only do sweepers provide a humane solution for maintaining grounds where Canada geese like to gather, Elliot points out cleanup is an investment that makes the most sense. He witnessed the park trying other expensive methods like garlic spray, dogs and black powder guns, all to no avail.
The mini 700, which costs $4,495 features no engine, so servicing is very quick and minimal. The wheels drive the brushes, which flick the feces into the catcher as you drive the ATV.
The Pro 1500, which costs, $7,915, has a key-start seven horsepower engine, which drives the brushes for constant collection – whether you’re travelling at two miles per hour or eight miles per hour. This is helpful if you have varying surfaces and grass length. Because of the 60-inch wide pickup of the Pro 1500, you can completely cover 1⁄2 acre in just over 10 minutes.
In early 2018, the City of Windsor in Ottawa approved $75,000 worth of equipment to clean up goose droppings from riverfront paths. “Clearly we see all of council gets calls and we see that there is an increased issue over the last several years with respect to Canada geese and the droppings that they leave along our riverfront paths in particular,” Mayor Drew Wilkens told a local radio station.
A home run in Boston
Goose feces became an issue at Teddy Ebersol’s Red Sox Fields, located in the Charles River Esplanade in Boston, despite egg addling, sheepdogs and fencing, so a friends group took matters into its own hands and purchased the Tow and Collect’s mini 700.
“We had parents/kids all turned off by an extraordinary amount of goose feces,” said Edward Fleck, a member of the friends group that is dedicated to the maintenance and stewardship of the athletic fields, which include three baseball/softball diamonds, a t-ball diamond, five youth soccer fields and a regulation-sized soccer field.
“The sweeper is a nice bomb-proof piece of machinery. It kind of sold itself in terms of its rigor and quality,” Fleck said.
The friends group raised the money by approaching city school groups that don’t pay anything to use the complex because they don’t have their own athletic facilities. Fleck said they gladly pitched in. They didn’t purchase the larger model with the gas engine because of the emissions.
“State workers pull it out of a garage a couple times a week, hook it to a tractor, and an hour later the fields are squeaky clean. It’s very effective and efficient in removing the poop,” Fleck said.
Education is key
In addition to cleanup and habitat modification, a continuing public education and outreach campaign is also necessary. People need to learn about the natural conduct of nesting geese and giving them ample space to mitigate conflict. Geese deposit eggs in their nests between early April and mid-May. After their eggs hatch, adults care for their goslings during May and June.
After nesting, geese undergo an annual “molt,” a four to five week flightless period when they shed and re-grow their outer wing feathers. Molting occurs between mid-June and late July, and the birds resume flight by August.
Lethal responses and harassment methods are not only unethical, but they offer only temporary answers. Elliot pointed out that geese are smart enough figure out what humans are doing and ignore harassment efforts.
“Canada geese aren’t going away,’’ Elliot said. The only thing to do is clean up after them.”