Open season declared on Indian Lake Park's geese

By Paul Paterra
Wednesday, August 20, 2008

North Huntingdon Township has set six dates for hunters to reduce the population of Canada geese that are polluting Indian Lake Park.

Rod Ansell, life conservation officer for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, estimated there are more than 350 geese at the park.

"It made you feel like Moses and the parting of the Red Sea," Ansell said. "As you walk in, the geese open up and let you into them, then they close up and you're walking with them all around you. Hunting is one big way to distract them and get them out of there to protect the park for human use."

Nationally, the population of the non-migratory geese has increased dramatically in recent years, resulting in crop damage and nuisance problems in residential areas. Parks often are infiltrated by goose excrement, which can affect water quality.

"We want to control the number of Canada geese in the park," said J.R. Javor, group leader in North Huntingdon Township park maintenance. "There are environmental issues. It raises the pH levels in water and affects everything from wildlife in the water to plant life in the water. It's also a walking hazard.

"(Hunting) helps our situation, keeping the park as neat and clean as possible."

The issue is being addressed throughout the state. The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources will open some state parks for Canada goose hunting within designated areas when the state's early season opens Sept. 1.

North Huntingdon did not have a goose hunt in 2007.***(this is an error. See below for explanation)

"We became the refuge," Javor said. "We don't want to be the refuge this year. It's not the animal being harvested that's important, it's just the actual shooting. They're not dumb animals. If they're not being shot at, they just can be-bop on in."

Javor said the township has encountered minimal protests of past goose hunts. Law enforcement officials and Game Commission agents will be on hand to make sure hunters aren't disturbed.

Kathy Burkley, executive director for the Westmoreland County Humane Society, said the organization has never taken an official position on goose hunting.

"If you would ask individual people here, most would say they are opposed to it," she said. "The main problem is most people also feed them, so it becomes a friendly place for them. But at a certain time of the year, it's not a friendly place."

Burkley suggested the use of border collies to chase the geese. "They will work relentlessly. They'll work all day chasing the birds back into the water, and they'll just leave," she said. "It's more humane for everyone. It gives the border collie something to do and pushes the geese back into the wild."

Paul Paterra can be reached at or 724-836-6220.

***This is an error. North Huntingdon Township held four hunts last December. The hunts were protested by Voices of Animals of Western Pennsylvania. Clearly, the hunts did not "work" since the geese are back in far greater numbers. Now they're organizing six more hunts through September, beginning on Labor Day. They have been asked repeatedly to contact GeesePeace for humane methods of geese population control and they have steadfastly refused to do so.