USDA captures about 20 geese
But plan to control birds thwarted when woman disrupts roundup

Federal wildlife agents captured more than 20 geese from a Sumter neighborhood Tuesday and had them killed under a much-disputed program to control nuisance birds.

But 30 to 40 geese escaped death after a neighbor disrupted the government roundup.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture conducted the roundup to protect the manicured lawns of Lakewood Links, a neighborhood in an uproar over rising geese populations.

Many neighbors want to kill resident Canada geese because the birds are chewing up yards and leaving messy droppings. But others say the geese are a beautiful addition to the community.

Steve Smith, a supervisory biologist with the USDA, said the goose roundup was more difficult than his agency normally encounters, but reflects the strong feelings people have about the program.

Smith said the agency’s roundup season ended Tuesday in South Carolina, and the USDA does not plan to go back to Sumter for the additional birds. The molting period for Canada geese is about over, meaning the birds can fly more easily than they have been able to in recent weeks.

“It’s not viable to do additional roundups” this year, he said.

The geese captured Tuesday were trucked to a poultry processing plant and killed, Smith said.

He would not identify where they went, but Palmetto Pigeon Inc. manager Tony Barwick said his company received a load of geese Tuesday. The plant processes captured geese for the USDA and packages the meat for use in food banks.

Marie Speel, a Lakewood Links resident who tried to stop the roundup, said she was “sick” about losing the approximately 20 geese from her community lake. But she’s glad others got away.

Many of the birds escaped to her yard, where they were safe. Speel said authorities threatened to arrest her when she began clapping her hands to scare the geese during the roundup.

“These wildlife guys were all upset with me. I said, ‘I don’t care. You don’t have a clue.’ I came in my yard and almost jumped for joy. I was happy these geese got spared.”

Tim Clepper, who heads a pond owners’ association at Lakewood Links, said it was a frustrating day.

“I’d say we got 25 percent of the geese we wanted,” Clepper said. “Our problem is not solved. We have some homeowners who still are concerned.”

The disputes in Sumter County reflect a larger national debate over how to deal with resident Canada geese.

In South Carolina, more than 20,000 Canada geese have taken up residence year-round on golf course water hazards, community ponds, drainage lakes and other waterways. State wildlife officials introduced the birds years ago to increase hunting opportunities.

Reach Fretwell at (803) 771-8537.


July 2, 2006

Canada geese slaughter upsets some

Certain residents don’t approve of goverment program to eliminate nuisance birds


SUMTER — Any day now, federal agents are expected to kill the geese that Marie Speel loves.

The big birds live in her community’s pond — and some of Speel’s neighbors say geese are a messy nuisance to have around.

So the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to round up and slaughter the birds this summer. Speel was aghast.

“Wildlife, to me, is a beautiful thing,’’ said the 68-year-old Speel. “People take buses to national wildlife refuges to see animals. We have these geese in our backyards and some people don’t appreciate it.’’

The government’s plan results from a controversial federal program that’s irking Speel and other wildlife enthusiasts. The program tries to control growing Canada geese populations in areas where they come in conflict with people, but critics say it isn’t necessary to kill the birds.

Canada geese, which once only wintered in South Carolina, have taken up residence in golf-course water hazards and on community ponds across the nation. South Carolina has an estimated 20,000 Canada geese living here year-round.

Under the government program, the Agriculture Department will capture the animals and have them killed if asked by a neighborhood group, business or other organization.

Canada geese draw complaints from golf-course managers and some homeowners because of the droppings they leave on lawns and fairways. They’re also aggressive at times, USDA officials say.

But Speel, who lives in the Lakewood Links community near Sumter, and other critics say the government should find more humane ways to handle Canada geese, instead of killing them.

They say the graceful birds are wonderful additions to the landscape. Canada geese are mostly black, gray and brown, with white cheek patches and long necks. They are bigger than ducks and are attracted to open lakes and ponds with abundant food sources.

If the populations are too great, the government should relocate the animals or abort eggs before ducklings hatch, some critics say.

Concerns about the program boiled over this past week in the Columbia area. Wildlife agents caught an estimated 70 geese at a Harbison lake and had them slaughtered. The meat was to be sent to a food bank for the poor. Media outlets were deluged with telephone calls from people outraged by the slaughter.

“This is a real issue and an issue that is not just happening in Columbia, but all over the state,’’ said Joanna Weitzel, who runs Carolina Wildlife Care, an animal-rehabilitation clinic in the Midlands. “It’s not something that every time this kind of thing happens, we should say, ‘Let’s go eradicate that species.’ “

Noel Myers, a USDA wildlife services division director in Columbia, said his agency does most of its goose roundups this time of year because geese are molting and can’t fly as well.

Myers said the agency first recommends nonlethal ways of getting rid of Canada geese. The agency, however, will eliminate the birds as a last resort, he said.

“We try to balance the needs of people with the needs of wildlife,’’ he said. “You are not going to satisfy everybody, but we make sure we are doing it professionally and trying to make the best determination we can.’’

Tim Clepper, Speel’s next-door neighbor, supports the government program. Goose droppings can spread disease and are so abundant in his lakeside yard that his kids can’t play ball at times, he said.

“We’re worried about the water quality and we’re worried about the kids playing in the yard,’’ he said Saturday after shooing a flock of 22 geese off his back lawn.

Speel said the geese aren’t nearly the problem they’re made out to be — and the USDA should realize that.

She was horrified last year to watch a goose roundup in the Lakewood Links community pond. Wildlife officials herded dozens of the birds into cages and hauled them away to a poultry-processing plant, she said. She dreads the next roundup this summer.

“I was sobbing my heart out,’’ Speel said Saturday. “I had never seen anything like this in my whole life. I thought, ‘Why would people do this?’”

Reach Fretwell at (803) 771-8537.



JULY 6, 2006

Slaughter of geese worries neighbors

On June 27, the Harbison Homeowners Board had all the geese (70) on Lake Woodcross collected and sent to slaughter. I and most of my neighbors are furious.

We were not consulted or even notified. My understanding of the reason behind this is that there were complaints of the geese messing up the sidewalks and playground.

But murdering the geese is not the answer. The geese belong here. It is their habitat, not ours. If geese in the playground is a problem, then move the playground to a more suitable location. If poop in the neighborhood is a problem, then move back to the city and find something there to complain about. But leave the beautiful geese alone.

C.S. GOODMAN, Columbia

JULY 7, 2006

There are ways to make peace with geese

Sumter-area properties and communities that kill wild geese merely because some people find them inconvenient have got it wrong (“Canada geese slaughter upset some,” Sunday). People can effectively resolve problems with geese without killing them.

Egg addling — oiling or removing eggs so they don’t hatch to limit flock growth — is a good start. Properties with significant numbers of geese can also apply repellents, modify landscaping and harass geese with lasers where they roost at night and with trained dogs where they forage during the day.

These long-lasting, humane techniques stabilize flock size and restore peace between geese and people. There is even specially designed landscaping equipment that sweeps up droppings from lawn areas. Community-based programs using a combination of these methods have been successful nationwide.

Geese killed at Lakewood Links will be quickly replaced by more, just as they were last year. Residents would be better-served by a long-term strategy that permanently resolves human-goose conflicts.


Director, Urban Wildlife Conflict Resolution

Humane Society of the United States



1. Please CLICK HERE to write a Letter to the Editor of The

2. Please write a letter to SAMMY FRETWELL at stating your opposition to the plan.

3. Please write to Tim Clepper, head of the pondowners' association at Lakewood Links to voice your opposition to his brutal decision. He can be reached at:

Timothy S. Clepper
815 Torrey Pines Dr
Sumter SC  29150

4. Please write to Maria Speel to praise her for saving the geese. She can be reached at:

Marie Speel
805 Torrey Pines Dr
Sumter SC  29150


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