On fields, beaches and lawns throughout St. Lawrence County, goose poop an annoyance
By CRAIG FREILICH
These days, it’s not unusual to see masses of goose droppings on beaches, parks, athletic fields, golf courses, cemeteries and even lawns.The great Vs of Canada geese find their way back north to mate, raise their young and feed all summer for the long flight back south. But all that feeding means that they have to leave the “leftovers” somewhere.
While it might not be aesthetically pleasing, “it’s beautiful fertilizer,” said Steve Litwhiler, Citizen Participation Specialist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s Region 6.
“You might see a green and lush golf course, but no one will want to be there,” he said.
The smell can be acrid, sharper than the cow manure smell we all recognize. It doesn’t look very nice, resembling the feces of a small to medium-sized dog. And it is about as pleasant to step in as anything put out by a bovine or canine.
“Geese are grazers. Sports fields are ideal for them. They can graze in the open, with plenty of warning if something is coming after them. And golf courses, with their water hazards, are even better,” Litwhiler said.
There is some disagreement about how much daily output the average Canada goose has. Some authorities peg it at three pounds a day, some at a pound and a half, and still others say it’s a third of a pound.
In any case, it accumulates in a number of places.
Chance for Disease
DEC biologist Mike Wasilco says the droppings “have the potential, though minimal, to cause disease” in humans.
There have been “limited cases” where goose droppings were found to carry high levels of E. coli bacteria, “but it is generally not a form of the bacteria that is harmful to humans,” Wasilco said.
The biggest issues seem to arise when the droppings fertilize the water enough at beaches that unwelcome organisms take hold and they have to close the beach, “or when there is so much green goo that there exists a slip-and-fall hazard,” Litwhiler said.
He said DEC is hiring Cornell University scientists to study goose poop.
Potsdam Superintendent of Public Works Bruce Henderson says the biggest problem with goose feces in the village could be “right here at the sewer plant” on the Raquette River north of downtown, “but that’s not really a problem. We let them have the run of the place.”
He said that in 2003, they fenced off part of Ives Park for Summer Festival “with orange construction fence, but people complained about that, so we took it down,” but Henderson admits that the feces-filled lawn “was kind of unsightly, too.”
Village of Canton Superintendent of Public Works Brien Hallahan says the only real trouble spot there, and only occasionally, is at the municipal golf course, Partridge Run.
“There is a good population of geese there, and it’s an occasional problem. But we mow, roll and rake it so often that we have not had to deal specifically with it. That’s the only place it’s a problem and it’s not really a problem.”
His crews have tried erecting “fake wolves and dogs on springs, and occasionally we will take a dog out to chase the geese away. Some people say we should spray, but we haven’t felt the need to spray.”
Getting Rid of Geese
“There are things people can do,” Litwhiler said. “But it can come at some expense.
“People use dogs to chase them away. There are well-trained dogs, water dogs like Labs, that can be leased out.
“There are balloons that look like eyeballs, and they wave in the breeze. They call them ‘scare eyes.’
“If you have a shorefront lawn, just a low barrier will keep most of them out.
“There are pyrotechnics that go up and go ‘bang,’” Litwhiler said, the kind of thing airports use to try to prevent what happened to Capt. “Sully” Sullenberger’s jetliner when it ran into a flock of geese on takeoff from New York’s LaGuardia Airport in 2009. The collision with geese knocked out the engines and forced an emergency ditching in the Husdon River.
“Enough noise like that becomes negative conditioning. They might leave and not come back.
“If the problem is bad enough, there is permitting for ‘direct control’ – a euphemism for killing – but Canada geese are federally protected, so you would have to get a permit from the feds.”
If you feel you need some help, Liwhiler said people can call a DEC wildlife office to get some advice.
DEC’s regional office telephone number is 785-2239.