GREEN: Soccer moms agree: Few things are more disgusting than sending children out onto a playing field a gaggle of Canada geese has visited.
Besides being a nuisance, goose feces can carry parasites, making the waste hazardous to children, the elderly and women who are pregnant. And in the nesting season — March through June — the birds can be downright threatening to humans who cross their paths.
For several years, the ponds in Green’s park system have lured large numbers of the birds to fields where children play. Their leftovers are pretty gross, said Mike Elkins, superintendent of Green’s Parks & Recreation Division.
“The geese population at each of the locations being patrolled has gotten out of control. Each goose drops one to two pounds of fecal waste daily. It ends up on athletic playing fields, on walking paths and in parking lots,” Elkins said.
Last year, just one flock in the Boettler Park wetlands numbered 75 birds, he said.
After years of unsuccessful attempts to rid the pests from three of the city’s most populated public areas, Elkins said the city hired Ohio Geese Control of Rocky River. The company uses dogs, laser pointers and remote-controlled boats to harass the geese and make the areas less attractive as nesting sites.
Elkins said the contract covering all three areas for 17 weeks cost the city $7,395.
Hope for some relief
Once a gosling is born in an area, it will return again and again to mate and give birth to a new generation of birds. The only way to discourage that process and change their destination is to make the area less attractive to the birds with whatever they perceive to be a predator.
On Wednesday, a 2-year-old border collie named Hope, under the direction of her handler, Jim Boehm of North Ridgeville, claimed the territory and cleared the geese from the Boettler Park pond. The flock has been reduced to about 20 since the company began patrolling the area in March. The birds circled overhead, waiting for the dog to leave and relinquish their pond. They gave up, as they do twice each day, and moved on.
Jeff Hower, owner of Ohio Geese Control, learned the disadvantages of hosting geese as a student at Ohio State University, where he studied turf management for a future in golf course management. He said he quickly learned that communities must find humane methods to protect parks and people.
The birds, which are becoming year-round residents in Ohio, are protected under both the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and Ohio law.
Dogs are the perfect defense against the birds that have been known to attack humans while protecting nests, Hower said.
“The dogs give them a wolf-like stare we call ‘the eye’ ” said Hower, who started the company 10 years ago. “They feel like they are being stalked.”
Protected by law
It is illegal to disturb an active nest without a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. This protection extends to the geese, goslings, nests and eggs. Nonlethal scare and hazing tactics, which do not harm the geese, are allowed, according to the Ohio Division of Wildlife.
The company, which Hower said is a family affair, employs six dogs valued between $1,500 and $5,000 each to patrol communities, corporate parks and individual properties in Northern Ohio.
In Green, the company began patrolling the Spring Hill Sports Complex, the Central Administration Building pond and Boettler Park in March and will continue through the end of the nesting season. The dogs and their handlers visit at different times twice each day to shoo away the birds and evaluate their progress.
“The birds are smart and learn the time we will be there so we change it every day,” Hower said.
They are the only canines, besides service dogs, that are permitted in Green city parks.
Heather Pelko, soccer mom to 7-year old Zachary Pelko, already has noticed a difference in the amount of geese feces she has seen after the first month of the program.
“It is better this year. I’m not concerned about my 4-year-old [Anna] falling in it or tracking goose droppings into the car,” Pelko, of Green, said.
Ohio Geese Control will design a custom management program after a site visit. Call 877-91GEESE (877-914-3373) for more information.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com.