Palo Alto Weekly

News - August 13, 2010

City looks for new ways to control goose population

Canada geese pollute parks, disturb airplane flight paths

by Angela Chen

Armed with mineral oil, noisemakers and border collies, parks and recreation officials in Palo Alto and other local cities are waging war on Canada geese that have overrun golf courses, parks and airports.

Resident geese have long been a problem in Santa Clara County and across the country, leaving their droppings on paths, chewing grass down to its roots and aggressively defending their nests.

The flocks were originally migratory, and some still fly to Canada every spring. However, many of the birds have discovered that the Bay Area's temperate climate, lush parks and lack of natural predators make an ideal habitat, according to Melanie Weaver, California Department of Fish and Game associate biologist.

As a result, many Canada geese have never left. At least 300 of the creatures reside in Palo Alto's Baylands Nature Preserve alone, with more living throughout the county, Baylands Park Ranger Daren Anderson said.

The geese, most commonly found in parks and golf courses, are becoming a problem at the Palo Alto Airport, which is adjacent to the Baylands, according to Director of Santa Clara County Airports Carl Honaker. The fowl find the airport's undisturbed greenery a wonderful nesting and feeding place.

"The airplanes can hit the geese in flight. They're big birds ... and if you're hitting at 120 miles per hour, the best case is that there's the least impact and some damage happens," he said, referring to the fact that geese can weigh up to 14 pounds. "Worst case is the plane can't fly anymore and it crashes."

While there have been no major dangers posed by local geese so far, pilots have been told by Palo Alto traffic controllers to reroute their flight paths in the immediate airport vicinity in order to avoid hitting the fowl.

Birds as aviation hazards are a problem from Palo Alto Airport to the John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York City. In early 2009, birds flew into the engines of an airplane departing from New York, forcing pilot Chesley Sullenberger to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River. The geese pose such a danger that, annually, wildlife biologists round them up in New York City's Prospect Park and gas them.

Euthanizing geese is not a population-control tactic used in the Bay Area. Instead, for the past 10 years, Palo Alto Airport officials said they have used noisemakers to scare geese away from the runways and nearby areas. But lately, the geese have caught on.

"The previous methods don't work anymore," Honaker said. "Nowadays, you use a noisemaker, they just move a couple feet over because they know you're not going to hurt them. We have five or six generations of geese who don't know how to migrate. They've lost that natural need."

Anderson is helping officials to develop new methods of controlling the geese. They've tried placing images of goose predators, such as coyotes, in the areas where the geese are commonly found. They're experimenting with different noisemakers. However, the population has not significantly decreased.

Honaker and Anderson are in good company when trying to tackle the goose dilemma. They're part of a larger group of parks and recreation officials, spearheaded by the Mountain View Parks and Recreation Department.

"We realized that in order to control the Canada geese population it couldn't be just one part of this area that's doing it," Anderson said. "So an entire group of cities in this area is partnering together."

The federal Department of Fish and Wildlife transferred jurisdiction over controlling nuisance geese to states in 2006, according to Weaver. However, at that time, no state laws existed detailing how such a problem should be handled.

As a result, the California Fish and Game Department passed new guidelines in 2008, which allows the state to issue geese-control permits to cities, although the permits are not necessary for largely urban areas such as San Francisco and Palo Alto. These cities merely have to monitor the goose population and report back every couple of months.

The goose-control permit mainly allows officials to oil eggs, which cuts off the oxygen flow and prevents them from hatching. This keeps the population of resident geese in check, although it doesn't affect the population of migratory geese.

According to Mountain View Park Manager Jack Smith, oiling is a common, though time-consuming, process that takes place in the spring. When the geese start nesting, parks and recreation employees from Palo Alto, Mountain View and other neighboring cities search goose habitats three times a week for two months to oil the bird eggs.

Another goose-control method used by cities is provided by Lucy's Gooses, a company that takes border collies to parks and golf courses to chase the geese away, Smith said.

Mountain View also hired an environmental consulting firm, which determined that freshwater ponds in golf courses are partly to blame for the large population of birds.

"We're doing a pilot project in which we've emptied two ponds on courts and have seen (the) number of birds reduced," Smith said. "We're trying to apply that to other places and permanently fill in more ponds."

So far, two ponds on the back nine holes in the Shoreline Golf Course have been filled in.

Smith said that these efforts have been helping to contain the number of geese. In the past, the population was rising by 200 to 300 geese a year, but in 2009 the number declined by 300. This year, it has remained the same.

"We're just trying to do as much as we can," Smith said. "Our target number for resident geese is zero."

Editorial Intern Angela Chen can be e-mailed at editor@paweekly.com.

Comments

Posted by Steve, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2010 at 10:47 am

Maybe a nature preserve is not a great place to have an airport? There always have been birds nesting along the shoreline, and there always will be.


Posted by Loosey, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2010 at 11:05 am

Harvest them for foie gras.


Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2010 at 11:08 am

Why not open these areas up to hunters during the regular waterfowl season (October - January)? Most of the federal areas of the San Francisco Bay are already open to hunting on Wednesdays and the weekends during waterfowl season.

Web Link

Web Link

The hunt pressure alone would help drive down populations, not to mention put meat on dinner plates.

I've been out on the bay in the twilight of the morning and have had hundreds of Canadian Geese fly over in formation. Completely silent, as they head inland to find breakfast. All you can hear is the wind over their wings. An amazing sight and sound. Too bad they make their moves before shooting time!

Honk, honk!

qq


Posted by resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2010 at 11:10 am

stuff 'em and eat 'em - yum!


Posted by hjs, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2010 at 11:17 am

Once the City figures out how to control the geese, let 'em tackle the squirrel issue. I worry a lot more about my fruit trees and vegetables than private plane flights. Priority setting in this town is totally wacked.


Posted by Resident, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 12, 2010 at 11:22 am

The geese are a stubborn problem. I recently witnessed a flock in a local park where children regularly play sports. They were there for many hours, droppings were all over the path, field and even play structure area. Many people were trying to get them to fly off, but they were visciously adamant about not leaving the area. They had no fear of people and were attacking those that came too close.

Is there no way they can be neutered or some other birth control solution?


Posted by Beth, a resident of Menlo Park
on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Gee, the population doesn't decrease when you just try to scare them? That's not news. Oiling the eggs sounds like a more reasonable tactic.

How about a goose in every Palo Alto omnivore's oven this fall? Palo Alto could put on a charity hunt in which the hunters donate the birds to needy families.


Posted by JW, a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I love it, I hope the geese win!!!

To those who really think they can control protected birds like Canada geese think again.

When I visited my son in Maryland they were everywhere, they didn't even move when his Australian sheep dogs chased them and barked at them. Folks they are here to stay - get used to it.

The River Thames in Southern England is famous for it's swans. When I walked along the tow path between Henley and Marlow I counted more Canada geese than swans. They are a real problem on the Thames and if the Queen's swan keepers can't get rid of them I doubt PA will.


Posted by jason t., a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:22 pm

shoot the geese and the coots, the coots aren't worth eating but a lot of fun shooting!


Posted by qq, a resident of Barron Park
on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:33 pm

I agree.

EAT MORE COOT.

:)

qq


Posted by Lois, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2010 at 12:39 pm

A little history on Canada geese. Canada geese were almost wiped out by the early settlers coming across the country in wagons. They needed food and migrating Canada geese were a prime target. They basically disappeared.

Then a small colony of Canada geese were found nesting at the north end of Hudson Bay. All the Canada geese we see today are descendants of that one small flock!!

They are survivors!


Posted by jane, a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2010 at 1:05 pm

It was dumb to put golf courses out by the bay. Obviously the geese were going to go there. Makes more sense to shoot the golfers


Posted by Koa, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2010 at 1:07 pm

How much money is being wasted by the city/state playing with cardboard coyotes and noisemakers? Did anyone actually think that this would decrease the geese population? People need to remember who's money they are spending. If they had a pest problem in their own house, would they waste their money with these games? Hiring outside consultants to bring in sheep dogs??? No, they would choose the most efficient and cost-effective means available. In this case, a box of 525 .22 LR is less than $20.


Posted by PattyA, a resident of another community
on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:14 pm

"Our target number for resident geese is zero." Wow, we just can't seem to stand any animal that outsmarts us in our own nasty little games, can we? Canada geese are extremely resilient. They are masters at communication and organization. They are exemplary parents and mates -- in fact, they would put many human parents and spouses to shame in terms of lifelong loyalty, bond and devotion. And, they can fly thousands of miles in just a day. We, of course can fly too in the steel planes that we build. But, when a 15 lb goose, eagle or pelican can take down a 50 ton plane, that might demonstrate where the true superiority is. The geese will always find a way and I say, more power to them. They are to be admired, not scorned and persecuted. Meanwhile, we should put our efforts into building better planes.


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:17 pm

Close Byxbee Park and make it a wildlife reserve. That way, noone will complain about having to wade through goose poop. Just remember, the wildlife were there before parks were.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:35 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Allow the taking by hand of one bird a day per hunter. Then charge admission for other to watch the hunt.


Posted by jardins, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:54 pm

For a city that's broke, this concern about geese is pathetic!

I suppose that because NYC has concerns about geese, vraie P.A. just HAS to keep up with the Joneses/exterminators.

What the geese leave in the parks is much healthier than what the City does when it sprays against weeds and for plushy grass underfoot.


Posted by Elizabeth, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2010 at 3:17 pm

Here's an idea...why don't we learn to live with nature instead of trying to control it.

I know humans are an amazingly arrogant population that considers its needs to be more important than that of other populations, but have we not yet learned that we cannot control nature?

I love the Canada Geese population, and the squirrels and birds. They have every right to be wherever they're inclined to be.

They contribute in ways that humans have no clue to and imbalance in populations only comes when humans meddle.

Populations will naturally balance out if people don't interfere.


Posted by Anon., a resident of Crescent Park
on Aug 12, 2010 at 4:29 pm

Get rid of airport and golf course and then put recreational facilities out in the baylands and some restaurants, and shops ... what a nice place it would be.


Posted by Stan Hutchings, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Aug 12, 2010 at 4:44 pm

Since the problem is the geese that do not migrate, keep protecting the migratory fowl. People will just have to put up with the side effects (just as animals are expected to put up with the side effects of humans encroaching on their grounds).
For the geese that have lost the migratory skill, an open season, starting well after all the migratory birds have departed, and ends well before they return could be tried.
Hunting licenses should ensure the charitable organizations that feed people in need should get preference for the geese - Thanksgiving or Christmas goose could be an alternative for turkey. There should be very little added cost because volunteer hunters and cooks would make costs to the city minimal, probably less then the amounts spent now to control the geese.
The same sort of process could be used for squirrels, though no firearm discharges in the city, please! Surely traps could be devised and sold to homeowners whose fruit trees are stripped by squirrels before the fruit is even ripe. Hopefully there are some good squirrel recipes out there.
Now if only those big black noisy birds were edible...


Posted by John, a resident of College Terrace
on Aug 12, 2010 at 4:48 pm

Get rid of Byxbee Park, keep the airport and golf course, and then put recreational facilities out in the baylands (aka Bysbee Park) and some restaurants, and shops ... what a nice place it would be.




Posted by Agree with Stan, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 12, 2010 at 8:18 pm

Yes, Stan is right. Aren't crows a bigger problem for us?


Posted by Don, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 12, 2010 at 8:26 pm

John. What makes you think the geese would stay in Bixbee Park? They seem to like school and city park areas as well. The larger the population of geese, the more areas they will cover.

Any fauna population from ants to man tries to control its territory. So who wins this territorial battle? I like Stan Hutching's ideas.


Posted by John B, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 12, 2010 at 10:09 pm

Maybe if there wasn't a park, a golf course, and fresh water near the ocean it would be less attractive for geese to stay there. We unwillingly created the perfect place for geese to stay where they like to be. Um...and maybe grass does taste good to geese.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 12, 2010 at 11:24 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"Now if only those big black noisy birds were edible..."
Stan, if there were any justice our civic "leaders" of the past quarter century would be down there feasting every day.
I still like my catch them by hand idea. London has Swan Upping, bring on our Goose Downing. [you folks in Rio Linda, note pun]
[disclosure - I have a cousin who I believe still lives in Rio Linda. She is not a Ditto Head]


Posted by Mark, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:27 am

Well, a while back, there was an article in the Palo Alto Online saying that there weren't enough off-leash dog spaces. Maybe they could set up certain times and areas to let dogs off leash in these overrun areas to scare off the geese? (Some geese can be pretty aggressive though...this only works I suppose if the off leash dogs are actually intimidating enough). And this wouldn't work for the areas where the coyotes were introduced...yikes


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 2:57 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Remember what happened to the Angel Island deer?
They were overgrazing so:
Hunting was rejected.
Birth control didn't work.
Importing predators was rejected.
Finally, The surplus were trapped and released 50 miles north in a preserve, where they all died in agony within a year.
Remember, in the wild, no animal dies a "natural" death.
Hunting is the humane way to control overgrazing.


Posted by I am a vegetarian but..., a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 13, 2010 at 5:26 am

I am trying to imagine having too many geese as a "problem" in 90% of this world.

Trap 'em and ship 'em to hungry people ( not too many hungry vegetarians in the world, outside India I think) ..or how about our own soup kitchens? Thanksgiving is coming up....a goose for every table!

I like Walter's idea..have "catch a goose Saturday" once per month, take home all you can catch.




Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:57 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Of course vegetarians would be given free reign over the volunteer vegetation on city property.


Posted by robit noops, a resident of Greenmeadow
on Aug 13, 2010 at 8:58 am

I agree, just eat them. Problem over.


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:43 am

Baylands = a bird preserve

Golf = pesticides and pollution

Airport = waste of our beautiful land and catering to the few

Wally = whimsical old chap who needs a nap


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 13, 2010 at 10:13 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Bird preserve? compare the bird population of the natural habitat and the park areas.
Golf? One of the best preservers of open space and erosion control in urban areas.
Airport? Part of our freedom of movement.
Wally? Eclectic libertarian freedom fighter. Where's my warm milk?


Posted by MV, a resident of Mountain View
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:04 am

Mountain View doesn't have a Parks and Recreation Department. It has a Community Services Department that's in charge of parks and recreation and a few other things.


Posted by CC, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

Please no shooting! We don't need any more bullets flying near us.


Posted by CC, a resident of East Palo Alto
on Aug 13, 2010 at 11:17 am

Please no shooting! We don't need any more bullets flying near us.


Posted by curmudgeon, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:23 pm

The council members should be required to chase them all down.


Posted by Duke, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:24 pm

Solution? Remington 870 12 gauge 3 inch magnum shotgun. Harvest the geese and feed the homeless.


Posted by jb, a resident of Leland Manor/Garland Drive
on Aug 13, 2010 at 1:27 pm

Dear Stan Hutchings,

Hoping that those big black noisy birds were edible? You are indeed the luck man who has never had to eat crow!

jb


Posted by Big Al, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Aug 13, 2010 at 3:11 pm

Right on Duke,
we were waiting for a specialist like yourself to fill us all in on how to best kill somehting. With a name like Duke you sound awfully tough, and all that gun talk makes you seem even more capable of slaughter. I am so glad we have some ruffians like yourself out there. It makes me feel safer. If I were a bird and saw you I would have to fly away. You go Duke! Your mean!


Posted by Equal Treatment for Geese, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 13, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Tell City Hall that what's good for the goose is good for the gander!


Posted by Golden Egg Geese, a resident of Community Center
on Aug 14, 2010 at 6:10 am

This is Mr J-Goose, president of the Geese Union, District Ontario. We are not going away so easy.

If you oil our eggs, our populations will dwindle hence we need to ensure that our pension plans are at least 5 digits.


Posted by Jay, a resident of Downtown North
on Aug 14, 2010 at 9:53 am

Try to picnic at Shoreline on the grass with goose poop all around your blanket. Not very appetizing.....


Posted by Accidental Siliconer, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 14, 2010 at 4:56 pm

That's all we need, a bunch of amateur hunters firing at geese all over the golf course.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 5:32 am

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

"That's all we need, a bunch of amateur hunters firing at geese all over the golf course."
Just one more hazard. Golfers LOVE hazards.
Good taste keeps me from mentioning one other anti-goose measure that incorporated kernels of corn strung on a long string.


Posted by Accidental Siliconer, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Aug 15, 2010 at 11:50 am

Too late, Walter. You mentioned it.


Posted by Walter_E_Wallis, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 2:00 pm

Walter_E_Wallis is a registered user.

Dang! I'm Sorry.


Posted by P. Pow, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 3:04 pm

The preferred solution is Remington, Mossberg, Holland & Holland, Winchester, Rossi, Benelli, Beretta all will do the job.

Web Link
Here is what men do when they have been pussified


Posted by P. Pow, a resident of Midtown
on Aug 15, 2010 at 3:05 pm

sarcasm now switched off


Posted by Mike, a resident of another community
on Oct 5, 2010 at 10:26 am

Big Al sounds like a typically hypocritical ne'r-do-well who lives under his mumsie's bed. Hunters have been America's greatest advocates of wildlife protection for over a hundred years. The Sierra Club are latecomers by comparison. Hunting is part of the cycle of life; ask any predatory animal. Just because one is completely ignorant about firearms and hunting, or intellectually dishonest about the origin of a huge portion of the products he consumes everyday is no cause to feel morally superior. If you want to be a self-loathing mammal, stay home and eat sand.


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