Geese at Melrose's Ell Pond being trapped, euthanized

By Daniel DeMaina /

Thu Aug 27, 2009, 10:38 PM EDT

Melrose - What’s good for the goose isn’t good for those who take a gander at The Knoll’s playing fields, which are typically covered in bird droppings.

To combat the problem of Canada geese soiling those playing fields, the Melrose Health DepartmentU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reported to the Melrose Police that they would be conducting net-gun captures of geese at Ell Pond.

Carol Bannerman, spokeswoman for the USDA’s wildlife division, said the captured geese are gassed, leading to a quiet death, and donated to food banks and homeless shelters through a program called Hunters for the Homeless, which mainly takes food donations from hunters.

The USDA also uses sound and light devices to harass the geese and when used in conjunction with the net-gun — making the geese associate the sound and noise with the net-guns — deters the geese from taking up residence at Ell Pond.

“The problem isn’t that there are resident Canada geese,” Bannerman said. “The problem is there’s an overabundance in an area that’s too small.”

Ruth Clay, Melrose-Wakefield Health Director, said her office has received “a lot of complaints” about the geese excrement from parents of children who use the playing fields at The Knoll.

“We’re trying to address that by reducing the number of birds,” Clay said. “It’s an ongoing problem. This is the first year we’ve been in partnership with the USDA helping us.”

It’s not a case of just a few bird droppings here and there, either, Bannerman said. Canada geese leave, at a minimum, a half a pound of feces a day.

“In a park area that has 50 Canada geese, you’re going to have 25 pounds a day,” she said.

The killing of Canada geese as way of controlling the their population in urban and suburban areas — and thereby protecting humans from the bird’s droppings — is not without controversy. The Web site of the New York-based Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese cites studies by the National Wildlife Health Center and the New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, which state that Canada geese and their feces do not pose a public health risk to humans.

The Coalition urges the use of non-lethal goose control methods, such as scare devices and lawn treatments.

Bannerman said the USDA, depending on the situation, does use an “integrated approach” combining a variety of techniques besides killing the geese, such as egg and nest treatment and habitat management.

She also noted that in some cases, such as in New York City, harassing the geese into taking up residence someplace else usually results in the geese only moving half a mile to a mile away, still in the city.

“However, I would hesitate to say that [in relation to Melrose], because we haven’t done that type of study in this area,” Bannerman said.

One way Melrosians can help control the Canada geese population at Ell Pond is to avoid feeding the geese, Bannerman said.

“I always feel a little bit guilty saying this — I have a lovely picture of my kids and I on my desk feeding the geese and the ducks,” she said. “That was before I knew about the problems. I understand that it’s a fun activity to do with your children and grandchildren, but by and large the food humans give to wild fowl like geese or ducks is not the healthiest food for them. It really only encourages the birds staying in an area that’s not right for them. Certainly we would discourage the feeding of wild birds. Wild birds are the ones that end up harmed in those situations.”


Robert A. Boisselle
President of the Board of Aldermen 
(781) 979-4100
Mayor Robert J. Dolan
(send e-email to Mayor through City's web site)
Letter to Editor: 



  1. For the umpteenth time, geese are not a health threat
  2. Donating goose meat to food banks?
  3. Humane Methods and Success Stories