Lake Wildwood looks to remove geese, cites E. coli issues | TheUnion.com

Lake Wildwood looks to remove geese, cites E. coli issues

The geese, congregating at Lake Wildwood, have been a problem.

Their droppings create a mess on the community's beaches. People have shied away from visiting its parks.

And, last summer, tests indicated a circumstantial link between the droppings and the E. coli outbreak that sickened some people, states a memorandum posted on the association's website.

"We feel that given the events of last July, we need to go to the next level to protect the health and well-being of our members and guests who use the lake," the memorandum states.

The memorandum doesn't use the word "kill," but that possibility is real and it's stirred anger among some in the Lake Wildwood community.

Connie Anderson, who moved to the community a month ago, said she only recently learned about the plan to remove the geese.

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"It's terrible," she said. "Killing all the geese is unbelievably horrible. What's going to be next? They have to understand that this is a wildlife environment."

Bob Mariani, general manager of the Lake Wildwood Association, said no concrete removal plan yet exists. His association has held a federal permit in the past that allowed it to control the geese population. It's oiled eggs, stopping them from hatching.

A new permit, gained under three weeks ago, allows them to shoot, capture, kill and remove geese, Mariani said.

"It's actually a pretty common practice because geese have become a real health issue in many parts of the state," he said. "The likelihood is we will eliminate some of the geese."

Mariani added that no decision has been made on how or when to remove the geese. However, he'd like the removal to occur soon.

At least 100 of the birds live in the western Nevada County community. That number can grow to over 120 with the transient population, Mariani said.

"I know this is typically a very controversial type of issue," he added.

History

Lake Wildwood officials don't know when geese began congregating, though the memorandum states hundreds of the birds lived there in 2004. A large hatching the following year led to the formation of a committee to help preserve the environment.

In 2006 the association obtained a permit for egg oiling. Later that year it received a trained border collie. It's also tried a handful of other methods to reduce the population over the years, including strobe lights, reflectors and decoys, the memorandum states.

The association states it's reduced the goose population, though efforts have stalled.

"Seventy to 80 geese can do a lot of damage," the memorandum states.

The situation shifted last year with the E. coli outbreak. Officials state they have "substantial circumstantial evidence" that the E. coli revealed in tests is linked to goose droppings.

A goose can leave a half pound to a pound of droppings a day, said Tanya Espinosa, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Mariani said the link to E. coli doesn't prove the geese are the lone culprits, but it's enough of a connection.

The permit the Lake Wildwood Association received from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service gives it the authority to remove geese. Relocating the geese isn't allowed, Espinosa said.

"California doesn't allow relocation," Espinosa said. "You can't relocate these geese. They would be humanely euthanized."

To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email ariquelmy@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.

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