A roundup of geese on the city’s Mirror and Shadow lakes will take place this summer.
The Common Council, at a special meeting on Tuesday, May 24, voted 8-1 to approve the goose control program it had originally approved on April 19. Eric Olson voted “no,” and Deb Fenske was absent.
When asked after the meeting why he voted against the proposal, Olson said, “I think Toni (Norkett) had a lot of good points to make. We’re suppose to represent everybody. I feel they deserve to be represented as well.”
For close to an hour, council members listened as Norkett, who circulated and presented a petition to save the geese, asked the council to reconsider rounding up the geese, while others, who live on the lakes or work at South Park’s beach, asked the council to move forward with the measure.
Sandy Testin lives on Mirror Lake and is a member of the Friends of Mirror and Shadow Lakes. Each of her four children has worked at the beach as a lifeguard.
“I know my children, who work at the beach, spend every morning cleaning up goose feces,” she said.
Maggie Edlebeck and Kathleen Snider are also lifeguards there. They, too, addressed the council at the special meeting.
Edlebeck thanked Norkett for her concern and said, “Each day, we get to the beach by 9 a.m and spend one hour scooping (geese) feces.” She wonders if that is part of the job description for the city’s lifeguards.
She is a lifeguard at the shallow section of Shadow Lake and watches toddlers playing in the sand and water.
The lifeguards work to scoop up all of the feces on the beach from the geese, Edlebeck said. She worries that if they were to miss something, toddlers could play in it.
All of the feces are first put into large pails and then dumped into one pile. It is picked up by city employees. Parks Superintendent Russ Montgomery said it is hauled to the regional recycling center and dumped in the back, behind the piles of leaves, where it then decomposes.
Snider lives on Lake Street and has gone to South Park since she was a child. “I never remember it being so bad,” she said. “I’ve seen visitors come to the beach and turn around.”
The two lifeguards read a letter to the council from Jackie Barrett, who is the beach coordinator and was unable to attend the meeting.
In the letter, Barrett wrote that the city is known for its beautiful beach and surrounding parks.
The beach is open 100 days, and each of those days, two of her lifeguards spend an hour scooping up poop. She can think of better tasks for her workers and urged the council to move forward with a geese roundup.
About 35 people attended the meeting.
More than 400 people – some who live in the city and some who do not – signed the petition to save the geese.
Norkett, who lives in the town of Lind, told the council there are other methods that can be used to reduce the geese population at the lakes.
Those methods include decoys, fishing line, fencing, natural shorelines and the oiling of eggs, she said.
“Killing is not permanent,” she said.
Norkett told the council that the chance of catching a disease from the feces of geese is low and that dogs, fish, turtles and salamanders carry the same things that the geese carry.
“I understand the frustration of homeowners,” she said.
As Waupaca grows, it invades the habitat of the wildlife, Norkett said.
She said the reason why so many people like to visit the area is because of its small-town character. With that comes such inconveniences as geese.
Norkett believes that killing the exact thing that makes the community unique – the wildlife – is wrong.
“Let us not become the city that kills geese,” she said. “Killing is just a quick fix.”
Charles “Chip” Lovell is a district supervisor and certified wildlife biologist with the United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, and he explained what happens during a geese roundup.
“We don’t determine where a roundup occurs and how many,” he said. That is determined by the community.
Montgomery said, “Our application for goose control is for Shadow and Mirror lakes, that area. I would be looking to reduce the population there as much as possible. If we could reduce it by 90 percent, I think it would be a long time before we have to revisit this.”
Following the vote by the council and the adjournment of the meeting, he handed an application to Lovell. The application is for a permit that will allow the USDA Wildlife Services to come into the community and do a roundup.
Lovell told the council that “typically, it takes an hour at the most for most locations we do.”
USDA Wildlife Services has done geese roundups in about 70 Wisconsin communities and each year, conducts between 20 and 30 in the state.
“Every community is different. There are communities we go to every year. Some every other year. Some we’ve been to once and have never gone back to,” he said.
Lovell said Norkett mentioned some good measures but that the city is dealing with a large number of geese.
Testin and others who live on the two lakes said the measures Norkett recommended were used but were unsuccessful.
“We know it (a roundup) doesn’t take all the geese away,” said Carol Elvery, who lives on Shadow Lake and is a member of the friends of the lakes group.
She said cute, furry goslings soon turn into adults and geese born on a lake return to that same lake to nest.
Maurice Wozniak lives on Berlin Street. Several times last year, he counted more than 50 geese on his neighbor’s lawn.
One-hundred geese leave between 200 and 400 pounds of feces per day in an environment, he said. That equates to a ton of fecal matter per week.
Victor Anthony lives on Shadow Lake.
“South Park is the city of Waupaca’s crown jewel,” he said. “I’d hate to see this beach closed because of the goose population.”
His three daughters worked at the beach. The last time one worked there was about 10 years ago. There was not a geese problem then, he said.
Mary Plautz lives near the Waupaca County courthouse and often kayaks on the lakes or walks near South Park.
“There’s goose poop all over,” she said. “Several years ago, there were not many geese there.”
Last weekend, Plautz went through the channel between the two lakes and saw three geese couples and about 14 goslings.
She said no one likes the idea of killing something but that it will get to the point where people will hear about the number of geese by the lakes and not want to go to the beach.
“This group has tried a lot of things, and it’s not working,” Plautz said.
During a geese roundup, specialists from the USDA Wildlife Services surround the geese and put them into crates.
This takes place around the time that the geese typically lose their flights feathers, which is between mid June and mid July, Lovell said.
Some geese may drop those feathers earlier than that time.
“There will likely still be geese around the lakes for people to see and enjoy,” he said.
Lovell said carbon dioxide is used to kill the juvenile geese, and they are taken to places where they can be fed whole to other animals.
Ten percent of the adult geese that are rounded up are tested for lead, PCB’s, mercury and for a common weed herbicide that is placed on lawns. That testing takes place at a state lab.
The adult geese are taken to a processing plant and processed in the same manner as poultry taken in by farmers, he said.
The meat is donated to food pantries and to the Native American population. If there are consumption advisories, following the testing, such labels are placed on all of the meat, Lovell explained.
The cost for this is about $5,000. City property owners and neighbors have donated the money to cover the cost. There will be no cost to the city.
The mayor thanked those who attended the special council meeting.
“Contrary to what some believe, this meeting was important to me and to other members of the council,” Smith said.
A public hearing was held April 19 on the proposal to have a geese roundup. At that hearing, no one spoke against the idea.
Smith said there was no harm in having another meeting to discuss it.
“We had concerned citizens,” he said. “To get the information out and get a better understanding of what is truly happening meant a lot.”