Goose roundup irks White Lake Township woman

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Michigan goose killings spark anger

DNR says it's a last resort in attempt to control population

Jim Lynch / The Detroit News

Milford -- Carrie McDavid has never been a fan of the way Michigan handles its population of Canada geese, but this year she feels the state's policies have gone from bad to barbaric.

For the first time in a decade, the Department of Natural Resources authorized the killing of geese this summer to control the population where the birds interact with humans.

Some 800 geese have been rounded up, sent to a processing plant and turned to food for the needy.


"It's cruel and it's brutal," McDavid said. She and her husband moved to a home on the Huron River three years ago, in part, because of the Canada geese that are regular visitors.

The state's decision to kill geese this year as part of its management plan has drawn fire from many animal rights groups and residents. But state officials contend they are handcuffed by fewer available places to take the birds.

Officials described the decision to kill the geese as a "last resort" and said the animals will be used at soup kitchens around the state.

Seven years ago, Michigan had as estimated 325,000 Canada geese. This year, the population is down to 201,000 -- smack in the middle of the state's target of 175,000 and 225,000. But it's difficult to disperse that population.

Canada geese have an eye for many of the same perks humans do: a well-manicured lawn, a man-made lake at the center of an apartment complex or the enticing green grasses of a golf course.

As development has spread into new areas in recent decades, geese are coming into contact with humans more often.

In recent years, Michigan's strategy for Canada geese has been three-fold. Homeowners are first encouraged to deal with the birds themselves in safe ways such as altering their landscapes and using scare tactics such as plastic owls or dogs to run the birds off.

Where that fails, the state offers training for the identification and destruction of geese nests and eggs.

And when that doesn't work, the state has rounded up geese and transported them out of the problem areas. In some instances, that has meant shuffling the birds to other spots in Michigan where they can be hunted or are unlikely to come into contact with humans.

Michigan also has shipped its Canada geese to Kentucky and Iowa in recent years to help those states bolster their bird populations for hunting. But this year, those requests for geese did not come, and DNR officials said they were forced to send some of the birds to the processing plant.

"We recognized that we only had so many suitable release sites throughout the state," said Barbara Avers, a waterfowl specialist with DNR. "We have criteria we've established for what is an appropriate release site. We don't want to create even more problems by placing them somewhere else."

To some, the Canada goose is a majestic creature that is essentially harmless to have around if you're capable of dealing with its prodigious excrement. To others, the geese are annoyances that often get aggressive and create a mess that is disproportionate to the bird's size.

St. Clair Shores resident Rose Marie Jacobs is among those who appreciate the geese. A longtime member of the Slow Spokes Bicycle Club, Jacobs often leads rides along Lake St. Clair in the Grosse Points that feature geese, swans and ducks in the scenery.

"They are very graceful," Jacobs said. "I just appreciate the birds for their beauty."

Like many, Jacobs admits she has had her run-ins with angry geese -- even as recently as two weeks ago -- but she said that's hardly a reason to kill them.

To McDavid, even rounding up the birds and relocating them is an extreme form of population management. She and others circulated online and paper petitions calling on local and state officials to protest the DNR's Canada goose policies. Those petitions garnered hundreds of supporters but little, if any, impact on the state's actions.

Judging by some headlines, interactions between man and Canada geese appear to be getting nastier, and not just in Michigan:

• In New York City, officials decided in June to kill by gassing at least 2,000 geese near airports as a means of protecting planes from bird strikes.

• A year ago, Clinton Township Police were searching for the members of a golfing foursome that allegedly used their cart to run down a goose on the course.

• In May 2005, a Texas Instruments employee in Attleboro, Mich., stomped a Canada goose and her five goslings to death.

• In April 2005, a Farmington Hills parks and recreation employee shot a goose six times in what he said was an act of self-defense.

Such interactions are the logical result of how Michigan continues to develop seemingly every inch of available land, according to some environmentalists.

"We've stolen their habitat," said Doug Martz, the St. Clair Channelkeeper. "Now there are only certain places left for them to go." (313) 222-2034

Informative articles about humane goose population control measures and other issues brought up in the story above.
  1. For the umpteenth time, geese are not a health threat
  2. Donating goose meat to food banks?
  3. Humane Methods and Success Stories