Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Please Don't Feed the Geese

Magazine article Parks & Recreation

Please Don't Feed the Geese

Article excerpt

If it's spring in the parks, then it must be time for the annual people versus geese standoff. In Richmond, Virginia, Canada geese wreak havoc on the best maintenance efforts of its parks staff. It's gotten to the point where the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities has resorted to border collies to chase off the overly continent fowl. At the same time, the department continues to implore visitors to Byrd Park not to feed the geese.

"While the Canada geese are beautiful and feeding them may be fun, it is not healthy for our parks or for the geese," says J.R. Pope, director of the department.

Canada geese are migrating birds. Feeding them encourages them to stop migrating and leads to the domestication of these wild animals. The result of this is an overpopulation of geese in the park, which in turn causes environmental damage to the park, creates unsanitary conditions, adds pollutants to the lakes, and can result in diseased flocks that spread diseases to other animals. In addition, human food is not appropriate for the geese and in the long-term can result in deformities.

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Geese that do not migrate also rapidly loose their fear of humans and can become territorial and aggressive.

The department began using border collies to help control the goose population in Byrd Park in 2008 and has brought them back this year. The dogs are trained to target Canada geese and chase them, which encourages their migration without harming them.

"By feeding the geese, the public is undoing everything we are trying to do to keep our parks well-maintained and enjoyable to visit," says Pope, who recommends that the public enjoy watching the geese or photographing them instead of feeding them. "Nobody wants to come to a park and wade through the goose droppings," he says.

The Poop on Geese

With increased urbanization over the past 25 years, the population of resident geese in the United States has increased dramatically and shows no signs of declining. …

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