Spoiled Canada Geese soil the garden path in a bad way
Who has not marveled at the sight of seemingly countless Canada Geese migrating in “V” formation for the summer or winter, or honking during short jaunts just above the treetops as they relocate from one watery habitat to another.
History and literature are replete with odes to geese. A Christmas goose was once as much a tradition as Old Mother Goose and Aesop’s fabled “Goose That Laid the Golden Egg.”
If you are a “silly goose,” you have been rendered a fool. If your goose is cooked, you have mired yourself in deep doo-doo. Let us not forget the much appreciated goose down comforter or fine restaurants featuring foie gras and goose confit; or goose bumps and numerous sayings not suitable for this publication.
Which brings us to the vexatious issue of what to do with the “resident” Canada Goose population at the Springfield Botanical Gardens (and other places).
A considerable complication is that these ubiquitous flocks of fowl with foul habits are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act of 1918. A federal violation can result in fines ranging from $5,000 to $10,000. Also covered are the actions of an dog escaping the control of its owner.
Although Canada Geese were once hunted so extensively they almost became extinct in the 1920‘s, there are now an estimated seven million Canada Geese in the U.S. (including about 70,000 in the Missouri Ozarks). That’s plenty for hunting each fall. These “residents” don’t migrate except for short distances, staying permanently within the same geographical location year round.
In particular, the Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) is not well-liked for what it does near water in public parks and the Springfield Botanical Gardens.
Disagreeably regular in their bowel movements, geese don’t seem to care when or where they leave their droppings.
These birds can eat 2-3 pounds of grass daily, often chomping away at flowering plants. Each bird can deposit 1-2 pounds of droppings each day. Just 50 geese can produce two and a half tons of excrement in a year. At the botanical gardens alone, the current population is 140-150 birds wandering the gardens, upwards of seven tons a year. If only the goose poop could be collected and sold, it would be a fine fertilizer and fund-raising medium, and perhaps all could be forgiven.
There are obvious signs warning not to feed the geese, but some visitors ignore them. Once fed a loaf or bread or other snacks by hand or tossing them in the water, the waterfowl become domesticated. Even so, they will still bite the hand that is feeding it. Moreover, they tend to live longer, reproduce younger and become more aggressive on the nest than migratory geese. The routinely spread bacteria and even viral diseases that can be passed along to humans, including Avian Influenza.
Geese and other waterfowl have become permanent residents of many parks, golf courses, suburban developments and other human habitats across the Ozarks. And who can blame them?
Here the geese have found plenty of food, relative safety and protected nesting sites within the gardens and parks where there is water.
While some park visitors enjoy watching them, others would like to see the geese gone completely. That’s unlikely, even if they were removed. More geese are likely to return, though likely in smaller numbers. Maybe that’s progress.
Lately, the Springfield/Greene County Park Board has been reviewing the situation. So far little has been done to address the problem, despite conversations dating back at least five years. That’s about how long it takes the resident goose population to double.
Of course, the problem isn’t limited to Drummond Lake. Canada geese have been spoiling the walk around the pond at The Burrell Center and other locations for years.
In neighboring Ozark, the Missouri Department of Conservation recently removed a gaggle of about 60 geese from the park along the Finley River after complaints of profuse poop on walking trails and ball fields. The “harvested” geese were processed and donated to a food bank. Depending how your goose is cooked, geese are good eating.
George Freeman is editor of Ozarks Living Magazine. This time of year, he writes “tales from his own back yard” from the Outer Office. You can reach him at Editor@OzarksLiving.com, or read his posts on Facebook.