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Kittery Water District kills geese at York pond
YORK — Kittery Water Superintendent Mike Rogers shot five Canada geese at Boulter Pond in York in June and July upsetting local residents who believe non-lethal methods could have deterred the birds from living around the public water supply.
Boulter Pond, off New Boston Road, provides drinking water to Kittery, Eliot, part of York and Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.
Rogers confirmed he killed the geese after getting the necessary permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service June 16. He shot five geese over the subsequent five weeks, he said by e-mail response. No geese have been shot for at least two to three weeks, he said.
Two geese wounded by gunshot were brought to the Center for Wildlife in York, according to Executive Director Karen McElmurry. One had an injured eye; the other had superficial wounds that prevented it from flying, she said. They were treated and released to a location in Greenland, N.H., which could handle additional geese, McElmurry said.
Rogers said he killed the geese to protect the water supply from fecal bacteria contamination as the geese were near the area of the pond's intake tower.
“The reason was to drive the geese from Boulter Pond, which is one of our public water supplies,” he said. “The amount of feces left behind from the flock, sometimes as many as 40 at one time, is astonishing. The feces on the dam, which abuts Boulter Pond, was so excessive that it was killing the grass.”
As it is maintained, Boulter Pond invites geese, according to local resident Joanne Muckenhoupt, president of the New Boston Road and Thomas Road Homeowners' Association. The way to get rid of the birds is to make the area less hospitable, she said. Geese feed on manicured grass around the pond, she said. There is no barrier between the water and grass, which is also inviting for the birds, that don't like to fly over such obstacles.
“It's a perfect environment for geese,” she said. “It doesn't make sense in people's minds to make a hospitable environment. I would remove turf, which is food.”
Planting an English ivy or other inedible plant would help, she said, as would erecting a fence, or raising the rock wall that lines the embankment.
The private roads around Boulter Pond are maintained by the water district, which has worked hard to be a good neighbor, Muckenhoupt said. Residents don't understand the shootings. “There's no reason they can't get the community involved to help with solutions,” she said. “This seems like an extreme measure.”
Muckenhoupt and others regularly walk their dogs by the pond. Neighbors reported seeing dead geese at the site, she said. A goose carcass was seen on a recent tour of the pond. It's unknown if the bird was shot or died of other causes.
Muckenhoupt advises walkers to be wary of goose droppings along the grassy trail. She has seen three families of geese at the pond. The birds come back every year for two months during the summer, along their migratory route, she said.
Shooting requests not uncommon
The Canada Geese became a problem in 2008, Rogers said.
“They are a very hard animal to drive away without using lethal methods,” he said. “We purchased an audio system that operates 24 hours a day, and used (it) both last summer and this summer.”
Rogers said they also used decoys, blow-ups like beach balls with reflective eyes that were placed on land and in the water. “These were useless, the geese would walk and swim right around them,” he said. “One of our plant operators even purchased a sling shot and marbles to try to drive them away before reverting to lethal action.”
Richard and Natalia Locke of Cider Hill Road are also upset by the Water District's decision to kill the geese. “You can't convince me there's such a risk from goose run off,” Richard Locke said.
McElmurry also questions if there is proof geese are contaminating the drinking water. “Are fecal counts high?” she asked. “If they're just shooting them because they're suspect, they don't know really if they're causing problems. I think the general public has a hard time with that. You would think all of the treatment our water goes through, it's going to kill just about anything.”
Rogers said no water samples were taken. “I am taking a proactive approach on this,” he said, “and not a reactive approach, meaning I did not want to wait for an outbreak of bacteria or residents becoming sick from drinking our water before taking action.”
Rogers said he notified the York Police Department as a courtesy, in case police received calls of shots fired. Police Capt. Kevin LeConte on Monday confirmed Rogers contacted the department.
Rogers needed no town approval, but did need a U.S. Fish and Wildlife depredation permit. A U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman said such requests are common. “We don't issue a permit unless they've tried non-lethal techniques first,” said Chief of Permits Valerie Slocund, who works out of the West Hadley, Mass., regional office.
Non-lethal techniques recommended by the department include harassment, scaring and fencing.
Slocund was not familiar with the Water District case but said the town had to get a recommendation from the U.S. Department of Agriculture before a permit was issued, she said. John Forbes of the Maine USDA was familiar with the request. Forbes is the state director of USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services. “Usually, by the time they contact us, they're at wit's end,” he said, “and they've tried other things.”
Forbes' department easily handles “50 to 75 requests each year,” he said. “In Maine, we're starting to see population increases. There's a sub-population of geese that don't go to the Arctic and nest.”
In addition to lethal control, Forbes said the USDA recommends non-lethal measures. “It's a standard approach throughout the country,” he said.
McElmurry said the Center for Wildlife fields calls daily from people fearful of wildlife causing a problem. Killing wildlife is often seen as the best solution by some.
“On a personal and professional level, yes we have a problem with that,” she said. “We're trying to teach tolerance and educate people so that the fear factor gets notched down a little bit.”
Rogers said the goose problem seems to have gone away — for now, and hopes geese have learned they're not welcome at Boulter Pond. “If the geese return in the spring, there is a method available that we will try that does not allow the eggs of the young ones to hatch,” he said. “There is an ingredient that can be put out for the geese to ingest, but it must be done early in the spring. If the flock returns, then yes, future shootings could occur.”
The season for hunting geese opens shortly, Rogers said, and the district “does permit hunting on our properties, so we could get some assistance in thinning down the flock.”
“I do not want to shoot these birds, but we as drinking water suppliers need to ensure that our source of drinking water is as free from pollution as possible, ensuring that the feces does not lead to an out break of e-coli or fecal bacteria,” he said. “Ninety-nine percent of the geese activity was occurring near the water intake tower of Boulter Pond.”
PLEASE TAKE ACTION TO PREVENT FUTURE SHOOTINGS OF GEESE BY CONTACTING THE PEOPLE LISTED BELOW:
Letters to Editor: email@example.com
Letters to goose killer: Michael S. Rogers, Superintendent Kittery Water District - firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters to York, Maine Selectmen: email@example.com
Letters to York Town Manager, Robert G. Yandow: firstname.lastname@example.org
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