Controlling nuisance geese: a free public program Nov. 9

By Dr. Sonia Vogl

OREGON, Illinois — As exciting as it can be to see big birds up close, geese can be a nuisance. We own property on a recreational lake where geese have been fed by residents who now realize they don’t want quite that many. They have hit on the partial solution of allowing vegetation to grow along the lake shore to discourage them.

Rockford Park District officials were concerned about geese in parks and along walkways spreading droppings, and in 2001, started a program using two border collies to chase them away. Now, people are asked to help with their dogs. The hope is that the geese will learn to fear all dogs and depart when they see them. It’s one of many programs designed to control this nuisance population.

North Carolina allows a “managed take” of geese.

Thirty years ago, geese were uncommon. Fifty-five years ago, they were extirpated (completely gone) from many places. Now, there are more than 7 million of them (Environment Canada).

The first time we heard geese honking overhead was a night in spring many years ago. What a thrill! At about the same time, a popular song said: “My heart knows what the wild goose knows and I must go where the wild goose goes.”

Years later, we heard them referred to as “sky carp.” What a change! Now, as people enjoy having wildlife in their back yards and feed them to attract them, they’ve become a nuisance. Homeowners in subdivisions with formerly lovely ponds try to persuade the geese to move away. Managers in manicured office buildings with outdoor fountains want them to go away.

At 2 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 9, at the Kickapoo Center, 1919 N. Limekiln Road, Oregon, Illinois, Dr. Philip Whitford, aka “Dr. Goose,” will present his program to control geese at the Madison, Wisconsin, airport. Admission is free.

Geese at airports are not only a nuisance, but a hazard. Whitford has developed a program that discourages them from low flight over runways.

Whitford’s recent research on nuisance goose populations at airports is an amazing success. He reports “Final results 97.99 percent reduction in goose strike risks September to January (peak migrant presence in Madison where strike risks rose more than 40 fold from those of resident goose population numbers).”

Whitford has his doctorate in biology and is a well-known expert on both geese and ocean deterioration. He developed the “Goose Buster,” his special control technique.

When we met him, he was the first boy through the ice in spring. Now, he’s one of the first to actually have success removing geese from airports. He is still the enthusiastic boy we met years ago. His wry humor adds to the interest of his presentations.

Join the Prairie Preservation Society of Ogle County at this interesting, informative program. It is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the program.

For more information, visit ppsoc.net or phone (815) 732-7332.

From the Oct. 22-28, 2014, issue

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