Lake Wildwood’s Geese…Laying Golden….er Eggs?
The Canada Goose is a magnificent bird, large, regal and graceful in flight. It does, however, have some not-so-desirable characteristics. It eats a lot and therefore poops a lot; it has a raucous honk, especially in flight; and reproduces prolifically.
Geese primarily eat grass and really enjoy the lush grass in our parks and that’s where you will find them hanging out. Of course that means that’s where they also deposit the residue of their meals. An adult goose can poop up to a pound and a half a day. Fifty geese, 75 pounds of you know what. In the past, the mess was especially untenable. Our beaches, parks and boat docks were covered with this greasy product. In addition, the geese contribute to the nutrient load in the lake and transmit coliform bacteria, as well as the parasite that causes “swimmer’s itch.” We believe our control efforts have significantly mitigated the problem and hope that you think so as well.
Geese nest in the spring and a mating pair will produce an average of five eggs each mating season. With a mating life span of up to 23 years, one pair can produce well over one hundred offspring. Think what 25 mating pairs can produce and the number per year goes up logarithmically as their progeny join in. The place that a gosling hatches becomes the place that it will return to for mating and nesting. Because of our relatively moderate climate, many geese permanently reside here.
We currently have about 75 resident geese in addition to any geese passing through during migration.
What can be done? Here in Lake Wildwood we have a goose control program that consists of three elements. Most of you are aware of our goose dog program that started with Katie, a professionally trained goose dog purchased by the Association to drive geese out of our parks and off our golf course. Over time the goose dog program has grown to 28 volunteer goose dogs who are formally qualified and authorized to work in our parks and on the golf course as service dogs to discourage the presence of the geese. The regular patrols of these dogs have made a great difference in the condition of our parks.
Secondly, we periodically embark on a combined operation where boats are used to drive the geese from the lake while the goose dogs keep them from going to the parks. If this operation is conducted over several days, many of the geese will leave and go elsewhere.
Lastly is a formal depredation effort where the eggs are treated so that they will not hatch. We must obtain a permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife for that effort.
The major nesting spot is Pine Island and during the nesting season we are visiting the island weekly. We do not harm the geese or destroy the eggs — if the eggs are destroyed, the geese will just lay more. We also search the shoreline and boats for nests. Some geese like to build nests on boat covers under an awning. They will also nest on the ground near the shoreline and are very hard to spot. Whichever mate is on the eggs really hunkers down and is motionless and the other moves away some distance to act as a decoy.
If we can control the number of goslings, we will have a good chance of managing our permanent population. Two years ago we ended up with six goslings. The parents do an excellent job of caring for their offspring and all of the goslings survived. Last year we only had six goslings appear. This year we had four. We would request that boat owners around the lake regularly check their boat to ensure there are no nests. Also check for nests around the shoreline and if you become aware of any nest, please notify the Environmental Management Office so that we can take care of the nest as permitted by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.
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