June 22, 2006

Geese rounded up at Columbia parks

The move was meant to lower the large number of geese at certain locations.

June 22, 2006

There was not a goose in sight late Wednesday afternoon at Stephens Lake Park and Twin Lakes Recreation Area.

The birds’ absence, though, was the desired result of a goose roundup conducted early Monday morning by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Service at both locations, which resulted in the capture of 37 adult Canada geese and eight goslings.

At Stephens, a few stray feathers lay strewn across the grass, giving only faint clues to park visitors as to what events had transpired Monday.

“I did like seeing the geese myself,” said Kathy Peters, a Columbia resident, as she watched a gentle breeze blow across Stephens Lake. “I was looking forward to watching them.”

Peters said she saw a number of geese Sunday, the day before the roundup. She said the roundup seems to have been successful.

The Columbia City Council approved the roundup of up to 200 geese on June 5, which could have cost the city as much as $3,500 if that many had been captured. The city was unavailable for comment on the total cost of the roundup.

Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless, who is also a wildlife biologist for the Missouri Department of Conservation, said the roundup has been a successful move towards alleviating the problem of the large number of geese at both locations.

“The objective of the roundup was to reduce the number of geese,” Loveless said. “The objective is to keep the population level low enough so that the birds and people can coexist amiably.”

Geese have been a nuisance in the area since the 1970s. In the past, the city has used harassment techniques such as air horns, chemical repellents, goose distress signals and fake snakes to move the geese away from parks and swimming areas. But none of the city’s efforts solved the problem.

The captured adult geese were taken to a processing plant in Aurora. The goslings have been released in southeast Missouri, said Rex Martensen, a field specialist with the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Ed Hartin, state director for USDA Wildlife Services, said the adult geese are processed within a couple of hours of arriving at the plant.

Once the adult geese are processed and frozen, the meat will be donated to food banks in Missouri, including the Central Missouri Food Bank.

“The processor will contact us and let us know how many there are and where we need to go to pick them up,” said Don Moore, food solicitor for the Central Missouri Food Bank. He said this is the fifth year the food bank has received goose meat as result of a roundup. Once the food bank receives the meat, it distributes it to qualified food pantries that provide the meat to families in need.

“We have about 140 different agencies that get product from us, and those 140 agencies are spread throughout the 31 counties we cover,” Moore said.


Goose roundup ruffles feathers
Some want to spare doomed waterfowl.

By MATTHEW LeBLANC of the Tribune’s staff

Published Thursday, June 8, 2006

While children splashed and played in the water at Stephens Lake Park yesterday, a small flock of Canada geese sat in the shade just yards away.

Some of the birds won’t be there much longer.

Under a plan approved this week by the Columbia City Council, about 200 adult geese later this month will be gathered from four city parks and taken to a meat processing plant in Springfield, where they will be turned into table food.

The state Department of Conservation plans to donate it to the Central Missouri Food Bank, but the whole idea of solving the goose nuisance in such a way disturbs some city park-goers.

"It just seems a little drastic," said Robert Bainks, who was sunning himself on the beach yesterday at Stephens Lake.

The 25-year-old said he had not heard about the city’s plans for the birds but suggested there surely must be another option to get rid of the troublesome fowl.

"If they would find another solution, that would be awesome," he said.

That’s precisely the problem, city and state officials say - there isn’t another solution. The geese have decided they like living in city parks, where grass is plentiful to eat and landscapes gently slope toward bodies of water.

In other words, the Canada geese in Columbia’s parks aren’t planning on moving.

Mike Griggs, the city’s parks services director, said the city began a "harassment" program nearly 20 years ago to try to discourage the birds from nesting in parks, eating patches of grass and pooping all over the place.

The program has included scaring the birds and "addling" their eggs, which involves shaking them or spraying them with vegetable oil so they won’t hatch. The city also spent about $1,000 on a machine that plays a recorded goose "distress call" designed to frighten the birds away.

The birds always come back, however, and their droppings could pose a health hazard for swimmers.

"It was not an easy decision for us to recommend the goose roundup," Griggs said. "We kept trying everything else we could. Every time a new product came out, we tried it."

Targeted for roundup are geese at Stephens, Twin Lakes Recreation Area, Lake of the Woods Golf Course and L.A. Nickell Golf Course. Goslings, which have not yet put down permanent roots at the parks, will be taken to one of three designated areas across the state.

Griggs said the parks department receives complaints about goose droppings at least once a month.

Conservation officials coordinate about six to eight roundups per year. This year, 15 are scheduled to take place in Columbia, Kansas City, Jefferson City, Springfield and suburban St. Louis.

Jackie Seigal, a spokeswoman for a St. Louis-based group called GeesePeace, said there are other ways to get rid of the birds. In addition to techniques the city already has tried, she mentioned shooing the birds away with trained dogs.

Mike Hood, parks and recreation director, said the city considered using dogs. That method is expensive and only offers a temporary solution, he said.

"They adapt really quickly," Hood said of the birds.

Rex Martensen coordinates goose roundups for the Department of Conservation. He said gaining a permit from the agency to kill the federally protected birds is not simple. It requires visits to the affected areas by a state biologist and proof that other options already have been tried.

"If there was a foolproof way to control geese without lethal methods, we would use that," Martensen said.

Still, Elaine Hartley is not convinced. She planned to take her 3-year-old granddaughter to the park specifically to see the Canada geese.

"I think" the birds "are an addition to the community," she said, "not a detriment."


Reach Matthew LeBlanc at (573) 815-1720 or


1. Please write to Matthew LeBlacn of the Columbia Daily Tribune to protest the city's decision. He can be reached at:

2. Please write to these people and protest their decision. Urge them to utilize humane methods:

Park Services Manager Mike Griggs 573-874-7202

Parks & Recreation Director Mike Hood 573-874-7460

Mayor Darwin Hindman Term Expires: April 2007 Phone: (573) 874 - 7222 Email: Fax: (573) 874 - 7539 Mailing Address: City of Columbia, Missouri 701 E Broadway P.O. Box 6015 Columbia, Missouri, 65205



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