More Canada geese gassed on Ammonoosuc River

New Hampshire Union Leader Staff

As many as 40 Canada geese were rounded up and killed yesterday by federal wildlife officials -- the second time in two weeks the birds have been culled for fouling New Hampshire shorefront property.

Richard Johns is president of New England Wire Technologies Co., which owns fields along the Ammonoosuc River open to the public and local children for soccer and other athletic activities.

"The kids would slip and fall on fecal matter and we had tried all sorts of things to get rid of them," Johns said of the geese, which can produce up to a pound of feces a day.

Efforts to scare the birds met with temporary success, Johns said. The birds would retreat to an island in the river and then return to the fields. Johns, who is president of the 110-year-old, employee-owned company, said the culling was a last resort.

"We tried all sorts of things and there was no success," he said.

On June 23, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services were paid by two Lake Todd property owners to round up and euthanize geese that had been fouling their properties on the 50-acre pond, which straddles the Bradford and Newbury town line. The federal government refused to identify the property owners.

Officials at the federal agency said the birds -- flightless at this time of year because they are moulting -- are rounded up and gassed in an enclosure with carbon dioxide. The bodies are frozen, chopped up and fed to captive raptors and bears.

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Across the state this week, Canada geese are being rounded up, examined for their age and sex, banded and released by New Hampshire Fish and Game as part of an annual analysis to calculate the state's population of the birds. It is now estimated at over 30,000.

Steve Weber, director of the Wildlife Division of the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said the geese are not being euthanized by the state -- the migratory species falls under the management of the federal government.

"We don't have serious Canada goose problems in New Hampshire," he said. "There can be local situations which are pretty bad, but across the state they are not that much of a problem," Weber said.

Ray O'Brien, who has had a home on Locke Lake in Barnstead for 25 years, might not agree with that.

He said Canada geese have become a problem on the lake in the past seven years, and the government has been slow to act.

"If this were deer on the highways, we would have a longer hunting season. The animals would be controlled one way or the other," he said.

Weber said the department plans to share information about Canada geese populations with officials at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, who help set hunting limits in the fall. Currently the state has what Weber considers fairly generous parameters for the resident goose hunt -- from right after Labor Day until Sept. 25. There is a second hunt for migratory geese.

Weber said the process of banding the birds, "is a hot, dirty, nasty job. They like to bite and scratch and do all sorts of things that are unpleasant while you are trying to age and sex them. They are very strong. You have got to control their head because they will bite you," Weber said. "They have raspy little teeth."

When the Fish and Game Department gets a goose complaint, they recommend the property owner call federal wildlife services. Often, they attempt to reduce the population by addling the eggs, or placing corn oil over the eggs, which makes them unviable. Residents need to get permission to do this on their own.

Carol Bannerman, public affairs specialist for wildlife services for the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services in Riverdale, Md., said 42 geese were euthanized statewide last year. She said she did not anticipate any more culls in New Hampshire this season.


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