Grappling With Gaggles Of Geese (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Grappling with Gaggles of Geese

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

13:26:26
Now, the Washington region isn't just a popular destination for human immigrants, all sorts of animals find their way here too. And when those animals refuse to migrate back home, that can cause big problems. In this case, we're talking about non-migratory Canada geese, which live here year round and are creating big woes for the environment. Environment reporter, Sabri Ben-Achour, finds out why these birds stick around and what people are doing about it.

MR. SABRI BEN-ACHOUR

13:26:54
Selby Beach in Edgewater, Md. is a serene place. Two small children are playing in the sand.

MS. JAMIE PHILLIPS

13:27:00
My granddaughter and my niece, four and six.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:27:04
Jamie Phillips hangs out here a lot, but recently her beach was closed for a while due to high levels of bacteria in the water. Fifty feet away, the cause is not hard to find.

PHILLIPS

13:27:14
Oh, yeah, there's crap all over the ground.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:27:17
Canada geese have left their mark here.

PHILLIPS

13:27:20
They are doing nothing but polluting the water. They come in flocks of 30, 40, 50, 60 and when they do their duty in the water, it's putting bacteria where our kids can't go in.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:27:34
The birds produce a pound of bird poop every day and it adds up fast.

PHILLIPS

13:27:39
There's too many bad things happening with the water and people getting sick. And I just don't want it for my kids.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:27:46
Erik Michelsen is executive director of the South River Federation. It's a conservation organization. He says the bacteria problem is wide spread. He also says the Canada geese that cause it are probably not actually from Canada.

MR. ERIK MICHELSEN

13:27:59
There are resident geese that have set up shop all around the rivers here on the Chesapeake Bay that, basically, are non-migratory that stay in these areas and linger and feed and, you know, make messes all over the place.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:28:11
Migratory Canada geese spend the winter here and then go north for the spring and summer. These geese stick around, year round. And they aren't simply a nuisance to people.

MICHELSEN

13:28:21
The geese that are here on an annual basis feed on the aquatic grasses which are already very stressed in terms of water quality issues.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:28:29
Aquatic grasses are essential to the Chesapeake water shed. They reduce erosion, oxygenate the water and are habitat for young fish and crabs.

MICHELSEN

13:28:36
The ecosystem adapted under a regime where the birds, you know, flew in during the winter and then left, whereas now we've got this continual pressure on the resource.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:28:46
But why wouldn't these geese migrate?

MR. LARRY HINDMAN

13:28:48
They're genetically different.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:28:51
Larry Hindman is Water Fowl project leader with Maryland's Department of National Resources.

HINDMAN

13:28:55
They basically are decedents of races of Canada geese that originated in the upper Midwest and in southern Manitoba.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:29:04
They came to the East Coast, thanks to people.

HINDMAN

13:29:06
Well, in the early 1900s, some hunters purchased geese from the Midwest and they used them as live decoys to lure migratory geese.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:29:17
But by 1935, hunters were no longer allowed to use live decoys so they let their birds go. And then, for a while, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service was buying birds to stock their wildlife refuges. So whereas there were 20,000 non-migratory geese in captivity on the East Coast in 1935...

HINDMAN

13:29:35
Over the years, they've increased in number to more than a million and a half birds today.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:29:40
That's more than the migratory geese now. In Maryland, liberal hunting regulations have taken the population down overall, especially in rural areas where their numbers have fallen by half over the past 10 years. But in sub urban and urban areas where hunting isn't practical, legal or accepted, the birds numbers continue to increase.

MR. DAVE MARCKS

13:29:59
We get a lot of calls during nesting season, emergency calls like oh, my gosh, there's a goose, you know, swooping down, attacking people. You know, they clog up the mowers, erosion problems, algae in the pond, attacking golfers.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:30:11
Dave Marcks runs the Geese Police. They sometimes will oil eggs to keep them from hatching, but mostly they use border collies to drive out goose populations without harming them.

MARCKS

13:30:20
We drive around and herd geese all day. You know, it's literally a wild goose chase.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:30:25
His brother Doug says not everyone resorts to such a humane approach.

MR. DOUG MARCKS

13:30:28
They'll round them up and they'll either gas them and they've been also gassing them and then feeding them to the homeless. That's like in New York State they're doing that. Around here, we hear of different areas where the police will come in and the silencers and they'll round up a bunch of them while they're molting and they'll kill them all.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:30:43
With a few commands, two collies, Scott and Max, herd a group of geese off the grass in an office park.

MARCKS

13:30:48
That'll do, Scott, come on.

BEN-ACHOUR

13:30:50
A few geese gone for the moment. But with many, many other gaggles of geese choosing to call this region home, Doug and Dave, say business is booming. I'm Sabri Ben-Achour.

SHEIR

13:31:15
If you have a lot of Canada geese in your neck of the woods, we want to know, are they friend or fowl? E-mail us at metro@wamu.org or visit us on Facebook, that's facebook.com/metroconnection.org.
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