‘Dr. Goose’ discusses nuisance geese, other annoying animals

By Drs. Robert & Sonia Vogl

President and Vice President

Illinois Renewable Energy Association

The Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County recently hosted a meeting at the new energy-efficient Kickapoo Center near Oregon, Ill. Dr. Philip Whitford presented an outstanding program about nuisance geese and other annoying animals. Whitford, known as “Dr. Goose” (according to his Wisconsin license plates), is the world’s leading authority on goose communication.

He claims to now know the right thing to do since he did everything wrong the first time around. He tells of having tried to move geese from Horicon Marsh in Wisconsin to Illinois by rounding them up with his small plane. By the time he reached the state line, the flock of hundreds had dwindled to just a few. Lesson learned: geese can be led, not pushed.

Whitford not only studies geese, he has been intimately involved with their lives. When he was a student, he and his wife raised a small flock of geese to maturity. The geese imprinted on the couple as their parents and would not let them out of their sight. Whitford mused that for weeks he never even watched television without a gosling on his lap.

Once they were mature, the young geese were placed in a zoo where their wings would be clipped to prevent their flying away. When Whitford asked the zookeepers to cut the flight feathers of one wing only, causing an imbalance to prevent successful flight, they assured him both should be done. After watching his research fly away, Whitford waited a year for a new start.

After being declared endangered, geese were reintroduced into a few locations. Since the 1970s, the population has increased by an amazing 30 percent per year. Birds that were exciting sightings became nuisances, both destroying and messing playing fields, corporate office grounds, golf courses and yards with their prolific droppings. In one count, Whitford found 35 droppings per square meter. His research revealed that geese like short grass and tend to avoid lawns more than 6 inches tall, offering a simple solution to the problem.

They also can cause major crop damage, especially in spring when they pick delicate plants that have just germinated. Corn soybeans, alfalfa and wheat are special treats.

Perhaps the most serious problem caused by geese is damage to planes. Last year’s Hudson River emergency landing is a good example of their threats.

“Zero tolerance is essential to prevent initial establishment of geese on facilities,” he said. Feeding will encourage them to stay. Once established, they are difficult to move or keep away. After a week, they consider anywhere they are home. Being highly gregarious, they then attract others, compounding the damage.

Visual scares, harassment, trained dogs and noise are some methods that have been used to uproot resident populations.

Whitford’s most appreciated work results from his methods of removing nuisance geese. Through trial and error by using a proprietary combination of noise and timing, he has eliminated many from sites where they seemed destined to become permanent residents. Numerous successful efforts were reported. Whitford’s patented “Goose Buster” (he shrinks at the name) is at the center of his control efforts.

He also provided an overview of damage caused by other nuisance creatures, including pigeons, starlings, raccoons, bats, deer, rabbits, squirrels and numerous others along with control techniques.

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association (IREA) and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. The Vogls and the IREA are members of the Environmental Hall of Fame. Dr. Robert Vogl is vice president of Freedom Field, and Dr. Sonia Vogl is a member of Freedom Field’s Executive Committee. The Vogls consult on energy efficiency, renewable energy and green building. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are active in preserving natural areas and are retired professors from Northern Illinois University. E-mail sonia@essex1.com.

From the November 25-December 1, 2009 issue

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