Thursday, July 01, 1999

City seeking goose population solutions

City seeking goose population solutions
The Ann Arbor News
By Pamela Appea

When a particularly territorial Canada goose knocked a Gallup Park visitor off her bicycle this past spring, Ann Arbor park officials were reminded of the ever-present and often annoying goose population.

Park workers and state wildlife specialists spent hours Wednesday putting bands on 257 city geese, an early step in an effort that could limit the birds’ reproduction.

David Borneman, coordinator of the natural-area preservations in the city, said the DNR came to Ann Arbor to put plastic bands on the necks and legs of the geese as part of an ongoing study by U.S. and Canadian conservationists.

“It is simple, low-tech, but very effective in figuring out what is happening with the population,” said Earle Flegler, a state Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist.

Using canoes, the dozen or so people rounded up the birds from Gallup Park and the Huron Hills and Leslie Park golf courses.

DNR wildlife experts are trying to determine how many of the geese are year-round city residents.

If experts classify 90 percent of the geese as “Big Michigan” or native area geese, then Ann Arbor may qualify for a federally funded egg replacement program by spring 2000.

This program, Borneman said, would lead to goose population control. It’s a problem, he said that has been an issue in Ann Arbor for years.

The high goose population –which rough estimates place at 3,000 in the area—causes pollution and upsets the ecological balance in Gallup Park, he said. Each adult goose, he estimated, produces about a pound of manure per day, making cleanup an impossible chore for park maintenance.

And while attacks are rare, he noted that many Ann Arbor residents have complained about the potential hazard of aggressive geese.

If the DNR funds that Ann Arbor does qualify for the egg replacement program, biologists and conservationists would take goose eggs from nests, substituting the original eggs for plastic eggs.

After several week, Borneman explained, the geese would realize that the eggs will not hatch, and then abandon the nest.

“We would certainly give the public a chance for comment (before any decision is made), he said.

Borneman also noted that the National Humane Society supports such egg replacement programs.

The species of Canada geese that consider Ann Arbor to be their home base leave during the winter for warmer climates. However, Flegler said, many Ann Arbor geese won’t venture more than 20-30 miles away from the area, unless the weather becomes excessively cold.

Photo Caption One: A Canada goose protests Wednesday while waiting to be banded at Gallup Park. The plastic bands do not harm the birds, said Ann Arbor Parks and state wildlife officials.

Photo Caption Two: A flock of Canada geese is shooed to a pen Wednesday where the birds were banded, tested and released at Gallup Park. Ann Arbor Parks and DNR officials processed 257 birds in a study to see whether the city is eligible for a program that would reduce the goose population.

Photo Credit: Robert Chase
Originally published Thursday, July 1, 1999