Neighbor cries foul over geese kill
EIJIRO KAWADA; The News Tribune
Tired of seeing pavement cover her South Hill neighborhood near Wal-Mart, Susie Engelbeck led a campaign in 1997 that persuaded Puyallup voters to buy Bradley Lake and make it a city park.
Engelbeck said she wanted to keep the 49-acre lake area natural, and that meant preserving the geese and even the droppings they left behind.
Other park users apparently disagreed, however, and convinced the city that the birds were a nuisance.
After years of trying other methods, the city contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture and had about 90 geese at the park killed late last month.
“It’s really hard to get back to nature when it’s all been taken away,” said Engelbeck, upset after learning that all but a few dozen waterfowl had been eradicated.
Tom Mark, Puyallup’s parks and facilities manager, said the birds were making some parts of the park unusable.
“They can defecate 2 to 3 pounds of goose droppings per goose per day,” he said. “With 100 of them, it’s anywhere from 200 to 300 pounds per day.
“(The park) has been nicknamed by some people as ‘Goose Poop Park.’”
Roger Woodruff, state director of wildlife services for the USDA in Olympia, said there’s a window of three to four weeks in June and July when geese molt and can’t fly.
So on June 28, Woodruff’s agency herded the Puyallup geese to a pen at Bradley Lake Park and gassed them with carbon dioxide -- the most humane way to kill them, he said.
It’s not a good time to be a Canada goose in Western Washington.
The state office of the USDA caught and killed about 850 of them on the west side of the Cascades last year, and it plans to do the same this year. Since 2000, 12,000 to 13,000 geese have been killed.
The agency does so at the request of communities where geese are causing problems, Woodruff said.
“It’s been a difficult issue to deal with,” he said.
The animals were imported to Washington in the late 1960s and early 1970s in an effort to replace native geese whose nests were flooded by dam projects on the Columbia River.
In 2000, there were about 25,000 of them in Western Washington, causing about $1 million in damage annually, Woodruff said.
That year, the agency opted for the last resort: catching and killing them.
“Boy, that has really, really turned things around,” Woodruff said.
Puyallup also tried some of the traditional alternatives, said Mark, the city parks manager.
Shrubs and trees were planted along the lakeshores to prevent geese from moving from water to land. That failed because the city must provide access to people who want to fish.
The city applied an oil to eggs that prevents them from hatching, but that didn’t take care of the birds already there. Parks crews put out “predator decoys,” or fake snakes, to scare the geese, but people stole them.
The city also enlisted the park’s caretaker to chase after the geese, only to find out they aren’t afraid of humans.
Last year, Metro Parks Tacoma tried a four-step approach to deal with the same issue at Point Defiance Park: educating the public, planting shrubs, oiling eggs and using trained dogs to chase the geese away.
“That has worked to the point that we didn’t need to go to that (euthanizing) option,” said Tacoma parks spokeswoman Susan Hulbert.
In Puyallup, Mark said bird-chasing dogs might not mix well with other dogs people bring to the park. So the only option left was to destroy the geese, he said.
Mark said the city has received about 25 phone calls since June 28, most of them positive.
But Engelbeck feels like an injustice was done. She’s most sad about the death of “White Goosey,” the bird that she and her four sons had fed since before she moved it from nearby Willows Pond to Bradley Lake in early 1997.
Engelbeck said one reason she campaigned for Bradley Lake Park was to find a new home for the bird as South Hill development encroached on its habitat.
“I was sure he was now in a safe home,” she said. “I was so very wrong.”
A few dozen waterfowl remain at Puyallup’s Bradley Lake Park, and you’ll spot them elsewhere around the area, too. But city officials say it is harmful to feed them for several reasons:
• Human food is not necessarily a healthy diet for the waterfowl.
• Feeding the waterfowl can create dense populations of birds and increase the chance of disease and parasites.
• Waterfowl feces can increase algae growth and pond decay.
Eijiro Kawada: 253-597-8633
PLEASE WRITE TO MAYOR KATHY TURNER EXPRESSING YOUR SADNESS AND OUTRAGE AT THE SLAUGHTER THAT HAS TAKEN PLACE:
PLEASE CLICK ON THE BANNER BELOW TO VISIT LOVE CANADA GEESE: