- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Fireworks, golf carts, synthetic grape flavoring and rampaging water dogs are among the measures being considered by a Waldorf community desperate to expel a flock of Canada geese. About 50 geese have colonized the three runoff ponds in the Colonial Charles neighborhood, devouring lawns and coating driveways and sidewalks with green waste, residents said.
Board members of the Colonial Charles Community Association appealed to local, state and federal officials Monday to help residents deal with the flock of “resident” geese, which do not migrate but stay in place year-round. Charles County Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D) said he would see if the neighborhood could use county funds to tackle the problem, though he made no promises. The suggestion cheered association Treasurer Karla Costello, who said the group would “wait for Commissioner Collins’ reply” before undertaking any anti-goose measures.
Canada geese are protected by federal law, but the U.S. Department of Agriculture could be willing to round up the flock for slaughter, said Kevin J. Sullivan, state director for Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., with the USDA’s wildlife services division. But first the neighborhood must try gentler approaches, including scaring the birds off with noise and disturbance or spraying grass with a chemical that causes indigestion, he said. Hunting the birds is illegal in a residential area.
Another option, used successfully against invasive mute swans, is coating eggs in oil to keep them from hatching. The technique “play[s] a trick on Mother Nature. [The goose] is going to sit on those eggs for 20 days or 30 days, then say, ‘Damn, they didn’t hatch.’ And you’ve bought yourself a nesting season,” Sullivan said. He said he knows of no companies in Maryland offering the service.
Resident geese thrive among suburbia’s lawns and small ponds because they are less afraid of humans and more tolerant of disturbance than migratory geese, Sullivan said. Development also protects nests from predators. Colonial Charles isn’t alone in having too many geese. Resident goose populations are rising, and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service estimates Maryland is home to between 70,000 and 80,000 of them. The goal is 40,000, so “someone would like something to happen to about 40,000 of them,” Sullivan said.
An expert offered reassurance.
“They’re not going to attack you,” said David Heilmeier, southern region manager of the Wildlife and Heritage Service at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Resident geese, with their dense populations, can spread disease to other species of birds, said Mike Callahan, president of the Southern Maryland Audubon Society.
“There is probably a need to do something about it. I’m always seeing them getting hit on [U.S.] 301,” Callahan said. While the bird conservation group hasn’t taken a formal stand on the issue, Callahan said he thought the local Audubon Society would support a program like that described by Sullivan, where geese would be rounded up and butchered, with the meat being donated to the Maryland Food Bank. The USDA would likely charge about $3,250 to remove the Colonial Charles geese, or, with a permit, the neighborhood association could hire a private company to do it, Sullivan said.
In the meantime, one homeowner has taken a stand for his own lawn and driveway. When geese appear, “I take the broom and I hit the ground,” said Homer Smith. “There’s so much waste every minute, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam, bam! So, I take the broom, pow, pow, pow! They’re scared of me,” and leave his and neighboring properties alone.