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August 28, 2010 / V A Nichols

Send goose-poop cleaning bills to Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

Bolton: Canada geese, the perfect pooping machines, wear out welcome in Alabama

Published: Birmingham News online, Sunday, August 22, 2010, 11:45 AM

Michael C. Bolton

In an upscale lakeside subdivision in Springville in St. Clair County, J.C. Ralph‘s backyard often raises eyebrows. Why in the world would someone want statues of coyotes in his back yard in such a nice place?

It’s the uninformed who ask such a question. Those aren’t statues. They are decoys.

That’s easy. To strike fear in the hearts of what residents are not-so-lovingly calling “flying rats” and to keep them out of his back yard.

The MacDonald Farm subdivision is experiencing a problem a lot of suburban ponds, lakes and golf courses are experiencing these days. The two beautiful Canada geese that appeared much to the joy of residents several years ago have turned into a gaggle of geese. The number has grown from two beautiful geese to dozens of worrisome, pesky, loud, nasty pests.

Remember the scene from the movie “Jaws” in which Matt Hooper (Richard Dreyfuss) explains that the great white shark is the perfect eating machine? Well, ladies and gentlemen, what we have here is the perfect pooping machine.

Waterfowl biologists say that these geese defecate three times an hour but anyone in an urban area who has experienced Canada geese will surely say that number is greatly underestimated.

Boat docks and piers stay constantly covered. Legend has it that owl poop is slick but goose poop is like STP in comparison. Any concrete surface such as a boat ramp or driveway stays covered, too. So does grass in the back yard. If you have these geese visiting your lakeside back yard, you’ll need to wear a mask while cutting grass. Cutting grass in sandals isn’t recommended. Owning a pressure washer becomes a necessity. The green, Kryptonite-like droppings stain concrete badly.

It’s hard to convince people now but as late as the 1950s the giant Canada goose was thought to be extinct. In 1962 some were discovered in Minnesota and thus began a concentrated effort by many states including Alabama to re-establish Canada geese populations. What seemed like a nifty idea in Alabama has turned into a nightmare.

Resident Canada geese do not migrate to the traditional Arctic breeding grounds. They prefer to stay year-round in urban and suburban neighborhoods. Because they are rarely exposed to hunting pressure or predators, their survival rate is extremely high compared to migrant geese. As a result they have longer life spans and 15- to 25-year-old resident geese are common.

Biologists have also documented that resident geese tend to breed earlier in life and lay larger clutches of eggs. Because their eggs aren’t subject to many of the predators found in the wild, the number of hatchlings is greater. That’s why the two beautiful geese that appear at your back yard lake will turn into 60 and even 100 in just a few years.

Alabama has a special resident goose hunting season Sept. 1 through Sept. 15 designed to lessen the numbers, but few hunters participate. The impact is minimal because the places where these geese are causing the most problems can’t be hunted.

If you are in a suburban area that’s battling Canada geese there is some good news, however. The big chains such as Home Depot and Lowe’s typically put their pressure washers on sale at the end of the summer.

Mike Bolton’s outdoors column appears on Sundays in The Birmingham News. E-mail him at mbolton@bhamnews.com

The Rest of the Story…

Lake-front property owners and golf course operators should send their goose-poop clean-up bills to the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).

Stocking birds for shooters is an example of how DCNR coddles hunters and ignores broader public interests.

DCNR caused the ‘poop-conflict,’ then used the conflict as pretext for killing birds.

Relieving problems from other areas, DCNR went to those areas and transported the geese here.

These geese are not native and therefore have not been ‘restored.’ These are the “Giant” subspecies of Canada geese which were believed to have been shot-out by hunters and were rediscovered in northern Minnesota in the 1960s.

Game departments excitedly imported ‘Giant’ geese for hunters. They provided grazing near ponds and lakes so the geese would over-winter and stop migrating.

A longstanding presidential executive order forbids agencies from introducing exotic organisms outside their historical ranges.

The geese are simply scapegoats.

They are established now, and are our wild neighbors.

DCNR should get out of the business of dishing up feathered targets so hunters have something to kill for kicks.

They should begin to represent the public’s broader interest in its wildlife.

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