THE ISSUE: --Long a nusiance in the area, Canada geese are dropping a pound a day each of excrement on paths and docks at Lake Elkhorn and other locations around the county. Should government officials step in and take action, perhaps rounding up the nonmigratory birds and using the meat to feed the homeless? There has been no such idea proposed formally for Howard, but similar approaches have been used in communities in other parts of the country.
Offer the droppings as garden fertilizer
I think most people love seeing the birds; it adds some life to their enjoyment of Columbia's lakes. Let CA pay people to pick up the manure at $1 per pound of droppings, then offer it to homeowners as fertilizer for their gardens.
And what happened to the dogs that scare off geese? Surely there are other ideas floating around for minimizing the unattractiveness of the droppings.
How about spray-painting them purple in honor of their cousins, the Ravens?
Personally, I am much, much more offended by seeing trash from humans in our parks than by seeing some animal droppings. I'm talking about empty nacho chips bags, disposable McDonald's cups, Band-Aids, candy wrappers, aluminum cans, etc., etc., tossed away in our parks by ignorant and il-litter-it people.
Just walk around Columbia's lakes or Howard County's parks and take a mental snapshot. It really destroys the natural ambience and gives me righteous indigestion.
Don't feed the fowl
There are several families of resident Canada geese that were born on Lake Elkhorn and should not be harmed. The migratory Canada geese need wetlands that are now scarce. People walking around the lake often feed the geese (usually from loaves of bread which is unhealthy for waterfowl) and therefore the birds have no need to migrate. What we need are strict policies of not feeding any geese or ducks.
Nonlethal means are effective
Reducing and managing nonmigratory Canada goose populations via lethal means is not effective. Kill the geese today, more will arrive tomorrow.
Further, meat from Canada geese is often contaminated with pesticides and other chemicals that most immune-system-deficient homeless people would be unable to tolerate.
The cost of processing the meat is better spent on canned goods and other safer foods to feed the homeless. Humane, nonlethal solutions to controlling and managing Canada goose populations abound. Organizations including GeesePeace and the USDA have numerous hazing programs in which geese are chased away from lakes and other areas. Combined with egg-addling, in which eggs are coated with organic oils prohibiting them from hatching, such hazing programs successfully reduce Canada goose populations.
These techniques have worked in many communities throughout the country, including Scotia, N.Y., where our group, Save the Geese, successfully saved 200 Canada geese from the gas chamber this past summer by using such methods. We easily garnered support from more than 40 volunteers, thus costing the taxpayers of Scotia absolutely nothing.
Volunteers abound in every community and will gladly help with humane hazing efforts, given the proper education and training.
The writer is a founding member of Save the Geese.
Holistic and humane approach works
There are many effective ways to manage the goose population without using lethal means. For example, in 2002, the Humane Society of the United States, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, GeesePeace Inc., Montgomery Parks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of Rockville, the Doris Day Animal League, and the Fund for Animals formed Montgomery GeesePeace to address human/geese conflicts.
Montgomery GeesePeace uses a holistic and humane approach to reduce the growth of Canada goose populations within communities. The program, which has a successful track record in communities in Northern Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey, Illinois, Delaware, New York, Missouri, and Washington State, uses egg-oiling, habitat-modification, and annoyance abatement to reduce and limit conflicts between people and the big birds.
Also, what I find ironic is that this so called "problem" might never have been an issue if wildlife agencies had not relocated geese all around the country to create sport hunting opportunities.
Perhaps if we approached living peacefully with our wildlife, we would learn to appreciate all aspects of nature.
Jennifer C. Grill
Excrement amounts are disputed
A Canada goose does not drop a pound of excrement a day. In a study conducted by Dr. Bruce Manny, research fishery biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, the average goose produces 0.3432 pounds (5.49 ounces) of wet droppings per day. At 21.04 percent solids in the average goose dropping, this amount of wet droppings is equivalent to 0.0722 pounds (1.15 ounces) of dry droppings per day.
The writer is national coordinator, Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese.
Real problems caused by humans
Why don't you people clean up the coastal waters of pig, chicken and human pollution before you worry about birds? You are always blaming wildlife, when the real problems are caused by humans who will put up with anything, if it's profitable, including the destruction of the Chesapeake Bay.
Now that is a real problem you can't blame on the geese. The Person of the Year to Blame, is YOU!
East Lyme, Conn.
Foster respect for bio-community
Conflicts between humans and free-living animals represent new opportunities for Columbia and other areas of Howard County.
James Rouse intended Columbia to be a community with an appreciation for life quality. Government officials can exemplify this principle by fostering respect for the bio-community -- of which we humans are members, not masters.
Many of our parks and lakes, and other open spaces where lawns meet bodies of water, attract Canada geese because of their resemblance to tundra-like environments that are the birds' natural homes. Naturally, Canada geese choose these locations to raise their young.
If too many communities of geese are moving into the area, then officials should mitigate the trend with reasonable planning. This means blending city planning with ecological restoration. Killing birds, even under the guise of "feeding the homeless," is an invidious form of social control that's equivalent to believing people in parks create a mess and therefore must be driven off.
Routine grounds maintenance is a just response. An enlightened community certainly doesn't chase residents out of town with dogs or round them up to be gassed.
When we address conflicts constructively, humans and nonhumans can flourish together. We at Friends of Animals are pleased to offer city planners resources, such as our Canada Goose Habitat Modification Manual, to help bring urban and suburban parks into harmony with our environment, which is truly for everyone, human and nonhuman.
The writer is a staff writer, Friends of Animals.
Learn to live with nature
Goose round-ups are not the solution because other geese will fly in and take the place of the geese that are slaughtered. The public needs to learn to live with nature.
The geese are there because government agencies placed them there long ago. It's not their fault that they're there. They do not know where else to go. They never learned to migrate.
Geese are beautiful creatures, and their loyalty to their mates and goslings are a terrific example to mankind. Their excrement is a very small price to pay for the beauty that they bring to our cities and our lives. Please allow them to live their lives in peace.