A set of lights at Lake Kittamaqundi could keep geese from making the Columbia lake their bedroom — and the lakefront area their bathroom and dining room.
At least that's the hope of Columbia Association officials.
CA is trying to stabilize the soil on parts of the lake's shores, but the geese have been eating what's been planted there. And the manure they leave behind ends up on walkways and in the grass, and ultimately affects water quality.
"They're terribly hard on the areas adjacent to our waterways," said John McCoy, CA's watershed manager.
The lights, put in place in mid-September, are solar-powered and low-intensity. Five have been placed in the lake: two at the north end, three in the south, all floating but anchored in place. Three more will be placed in the center of the lake after dredging there is done, McCoy said.
"What happens is geese fly into the lake and go to land and grass and eat during the day, but during the evenings they go to the water and float" to get away from predators, said Sean Harbaugh, who works with CA's open spaces. "When you make them uncomfortable, and that's the intent with the lights, they then choose to go somewhere else, and they don't just sit on the pond or lake on an ongoing basis."
CA has purchased 12 of the lights for $369 apiece, McCoy said. Two of them are being reserved for potential use in a golf course irrigation pond.
Goose control efforts are nothing in Columbia. The association first began efforts to reduce the goose population more than a decade ago, bringing in trained dogs to scare the birds away.
"Back in the mid-'90s we had, literally, hundreds of geese sitting on Lake Kittamaqundi and Wilde Lake," Harbaugh said. "That number was quickly and drastically reduced."
CA still uses dogs but decided to use lights as well. Though the resident goose population at the lake is somewhere between 10 and 15, the birds are still having an impact on the land, particularly on a pair of isthmuses built during the summer.
"It was an immediate need," McCoy said. "The geese came in and ate the planting. We want to replant them and want to do something to protect the money being spent."
Officials want to see whether the lights work before investing in more lights for Columbia's other lakes. They might not have to wait too long to find out.
"If we don't have too many geese on the lake this fall during migration," McCoy said, "It'll be pretty evident."