Friday, March 07, 2008

Getting Rid of the Byrd Park Geese

As an animal rights oriented Byrd Park resident, I was a little ambivalent about the plans for goose herding using trained dogs. Apparaently, this is set to take place on Monday. However, I got an email from a civic-minded nature-buff that won me over (see below). And I thought I'd contribute my own thoughts.

First, here's the announcement, from my Civic League prez:
On Monday the City's Parks Department with its contractor will be running the trained Border Collies through and around the Roundhouse and Swan Lake. These dogs are specially trained to chase ONLY THE CANADIAN GEESE. The domestic geese and ducks will not be chased. These dogs are highly trained to simply being used to push the nuisance Canadian geese out of the Park. This "chasing" will be occur again on a regular basis with the goal of encouraging the Canadian Geese to begin to migrate.

NO GEESE WILL BE HURT IN THE PROCESS. Please remember that these geese are SUPPOSED to migrate and have been living park now for several years.

My thoughts in brief:
First, my house had pigeons roosting (and popping) all over the eves of my porch and windows for years. We constantly heard their racket inside. One day, I brought home a tube of "tangle foot" pigeon deterant and squirted the stuff on every window sill. I've never heard from them since! And I have no remorse. They've got wings and can make their home almost anywhere. I wouldn't kill a bird for food, but I'll put some sticky stuff on the bottoms of their feet if it means less poop and more peace. The Moral: Deliver your message to the birds in a language they can understand and they'll change their behavior.

Second, I walk my dogs around the lakes in Byrd Park, mostly sticking to the sidewalk. The whole way, the dogs have their nose to the ground, scooping up disgusting green goose poop with gusto. Blech! I hear that the birds can sometime have parasites that can be passed through their feces. Either way, it can't be healthy dietary supplement and it's just bad form for a house dog. Of course, my little black pug would probably trade his poop scooping habit for a chance to chase some birds in Byrd Park. The moral: Byrd Park will be soooo much better when you don't have to watch your every step to avoid stepping in slimey green pile of crap.

From Byrd Park's resident naturalist:

Just a brief comment for the people who are concerned about harsh or discriminatory treatment of our Canadian geese with the border collies. I'm not representing any group, but am writing this strictly on my own. This issue hasn't received much full attention yet in our media, so many people haven't received much relevant info. We had a helpful in depth presentation at a recent Friends of Wm Byrd Park meeting by Christy Everson from Rec & Parks on how and why this program with the border collies will help get the 300 Canada geese out of our park. The number of these geese has increased dramatically in recent years as they've stopped and stayed here instead of migrating south. Each goose leaves 1.5 lbs of droppings per day. Do the math for 300 geese X 365 days and you'll see this amounts to 164,250 pounds of rather large droppings per year, on sidewalks and grass, which are unhealthy and messy. One example: I've recently been talking with people over at the VA Home on the east side of WBP and when their residents go out on the nearby sidewalks near VH and next to Swan Lake, when they come back inside the treads of their wheel chair tires are often full of goose droppings.

Last year I attended a presentation by the owner of a local professional group of border collies who do precisely this type of work. The border collies are highly trained to chase them until they persuade the Canadian geese to leave the park and live somewhere else. They do not harm the geese in any way. Many cities with geese problems have used border collies to deal very effectively with this problem, like Manhattan to get the canada geese out of Central Park. Search the Internet for "border collies and canada geese" and you'll find many examples.

I hope some of this info helps put this topic in a bit of perspective.


  1. Border collies are not a bad idea to control the geese, because it is an environmentally friendly and humane way to deter them. However, it is not a permanent solution. The geese will come back day after day year after year because they like the area. More permanent solutions are available. Commercial products have been researched that permanently deter geese from any area for decades, with the use of recorded goose distress calls. This is great because it saves money and effort, and still does not harm the geese or the earth.

    Check out Bird-X

  2. I guess I assumed that pigeons and geese were the same in that a little tanglefoot or some barking dogs would give them a lasting negative association with the Lakes in Byrd Park. Is that not how it works?

    As I'm writing this, I'm feeling a little weary of getting over-involved, because my interest in this topic was inspired by a knee jerk reaction: goose poop BAD, frolicking dogs GOOD.

    I don't think I'd want to see every bird run off indiscriminately by the Bird-X lazer beams, because the "duck fish birds" (cormorants?) are really amusing to me.

  3. Anonymous9:35 AM

    Now if we solve the 'homeless problem'...

    Just kidding.

  4. Bert Berlin11:18 AM

    Okay, I guess I'll be unpopular. The geese we see in Byrd Park and in most areas up and down the middle Atlantic states are not migrating Canada Geese. These are geese that have long ago lost the migrating instinct. They will stay where conditions are good and continue to breed and increase in numbers. In my opinion they are pests and a public health menace.
    On the other hand there are many hundreds of Richmonders who are chronically hungry, because of a shortage of economic resources. I suggest we put the geese to good use by thinning the population once or twice a year and serving a roast goose feast to our hungry neighbors.


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