Hunters vie to shoot geese in Beaver County park

By Matthew Santoni
Thursday, December 11, 2008

The days of peaceful feeding and prolific pooping are nearly at an end for the geese of Bradys Run Park in Beaver County.

A lottery was held Wednesday for slots in five duck blinds being set up along the park's 50-acre lake, where hunters will wait over seven days with the hope that picking off a few birds will force the flock to move on.

County Commissioner Charlie Camp proposed the hunt amid complaints that a growing, sedentary flock of geese and their slippery, smelly droppings are a nuisance and hazard in the 2,000-acre park. They filled the lake with bacteria that put it off-limits to swimmers during summer, turned paths and playgrounds into obstacle courses, and made a sandy beach into a litter box.

"We're not thinking this is going to be the way to permanently resolve the overpopulation issue, but it's a start," Camp said. "It's just too much work to clean up after them."

Sharon Pawlak, national coordinator for the Pearl River, N.Y.-based Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, said she'd rather see the county look for nonlethal options like using border collies to scare off non-migratory geese; and either shaking eggs or dousing them in oil to keep more geese from hatching.

She said the hunt might kill both the resident geese who were causing the trouble and migratory geese who are just flying through on the way to warmer climes.

"I don't know how you know the difference between a resident goose and a migratory goose, because at this time of year, they mingle," Pawlak said.

Rebecca Reid of Manchester, a member of Voices for Animals of Western Pa., said she didn't think the hunt would be effective because it would only create a "vacuum" for more geese to fill.

"It's not very sporting, either, is it? It's not very hard to chase and hunt a tame Canada Goose," she said.

The geese grew used to people feeding them and found few competitors or natural predators in the park, so the commissioners hoped to look at ways to address that as well, Camp said.

Signs around the park might warn visitors against feeding the wildlife, and the county might stock the lake with a few swans -- which are more territorial and will chase off the docile geese.

The hunt comes at a good time, since the goose problem has worsened in the winter months, said Parks and Recreation Director Tom King. The weather can get too cold for crews to hose goose droppings off the park's new $250,000 playground every day, but families still use it.

"If it's above freezing and the sun is out, people will be there," King said.

Almost 200 hunters applied for the 35 slots in the blinds, King said. Each person whose name was drawn will get one blind, and can bring up to three friends.

"We wanted to make sure everyone in each blind would be compatible," King said, noting the risk if armed and possibly argumentative people were randomly put together in the blinds.

The first day of the hunt will be Dec. 22. It will continue Dec. 24, 27, 29 and 31; and then Jan . 2 and 3. Areas surrounding the lake will be closed from 6 a.m. to noon while the hunt takes place.

Matthew Santoni can be reached at or 412-380-5625.