Geese control options were presented at a public meeting on Tuesday, April 28, at the Iola Community Center.
“The population of native geese on Lake Iola was reduced during our recent draw down, but now that the lake is back, we want to take advantage of this opportunity to keep the geese from getting out of control,” said John Bertelson, of the Lake Iola Lake District Association.
During the public meeting, Mike Jones, from USDA Wildlife Services, presented Canada goose control methods that have been successful in other communities.
A division of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, WS provides technical assistance, information and direct management “to help people resolve wildlife issues,” Jones said.
The main problem with geese is feces, according to Jones. Each adult bird produces about one pound of feces per day, which may cause a decrease in water quality and other health concerns.
Large populations of geese may overtake parks and other recreational spaces so people no longer want to use these areas.
According to Jones, Canada geese seek out large areas of mowed grass located near water.
Jones presented several non-lethal methods of controlling the geese.
These geese control methods included:
• Have and enforce a “no feeding” ordinance.
• Allow grass to grow at least six inches high near water.
• Utilize scare tactics such as sounds, pyrotechnics, predator decoys, trained dogs and taste repellants.
• Modify shoreline to include geese deterrents such as heavy riffraff, fences and retaining walls.
“There are lots of goose fences being used around Lake Iola,” Jones said.
He warned that making the habitat less desirable does not always work on a well established population.
Jones stressed the importance of also having a goose population management plan. This involves reducing the number of adult birds and reducing the amount of new birds.
Methods of reducing the number of adult birds include encouraging hunting and rounding up the birds.
Canada geese may only be rounded up from about mid-June to mid-July, when the adult birds lose their flight feathers (molt). Geese may be rounded up during this period and transported by the WS, the only agency authorized to remove the geese.
“We get them off the water, surround them with panels, then close-in the circle and load them into poultry crates,” Jones said.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) does not allow relocation of the geese, so every captured bird must be euthanized.
The options include testing (for lead and mercury) and then donating the ground meat to a local food pantry. Ten percent of the adult birds are tested at the Veterinary Diagnostics Lab in Madison, at a cost of about $50 per sample.
The second option is not to do any testing, resulting in all of the meat being used to feed captive canines.
The meat from the young birds is always sent to facilities that feed captive canines.
“We like to donate the meat back to the local pantry,” Jones said. “But every bird is used; nothing is wasted.”
Since 1999, he said the regional WS has helped 77 different communities resolve goose population problems.
He was asked how effective a goose roundup would be. Jones replied that the WS typically captures about 90 percent of the geese in an area.
“An immediate effect on the resource is realized,” he said. “Roundups in consecutive years may be most effective. When we do roundups two or three times, we usually don’t need to return for at least five years.”
The cost of a roundup ranges from about $2,000-$5,000.
“It may be a bit tricky (around Lake Iola), with all the nooks and crannies,” he said. “The cost depends on our time, which we really don’t know until we do it.”
Locating the geese before the WS crew arrives saves time and money. Also, having several volunteers helping with the actual roundup may speed up the process.
“Sometimes we are in and out in one to two hours,” Jones said.
He suggested the lake district try a variety of techniques and tactics before doing a roundup. He encouraged the lake district to begin oiling eggs, which is a cost-effective way of reducing the new population.
Oiling eggs involves finding each nest, covering each egg with 100 percent corn oil and marking the nest.
“You need to be proactive,” Jones said. “Manage the geese issues before the problem is out of control.”
Bertelson announced that the lake district has obtained a permit to oil eggs in up to 20 nests. Jones suggested that they amend the permit to include more nests.
“By June 1, you will know if you still have a geese problem,” he said.
At that point, the lake district could request a roundup.
Bertelson has already applied for the permit and plans to ask the Iola Village Board at its Monday, May 11, meeting, to approve funding for the roundup.
“I think it would be wise, if we’re going to do it, to do it in consecutive years,” said Terry Murphy, a member of the village board.
“When you use a roundup in conjunction with egg oiling, you’re going to see a mass amount of geese gone and your problem resolved,” said Barry Benson, of Wildlife Services. “It is pretty effective.”
Volunteers, permission needed
Bertelson started the egg oiling process and discovered he needs help locating nests.
“We only located one nest and oiled two eggs,” he said. “The only reason we knew where to look for the nest was because of a tip by another homeowner.”
“For all of you who would like to help us in this effort, I’d appreciate any information on the location of goose nests,” Bertelson said.
Also, the lake district needs permission forms from each landowner if there are nests on their property. The signed form will also allow lake district members or Wildlife Service workers on the property for the goose removal program.
“The waiver has no expiration date, so it will remain in effect until canceled by the property owner, which allows for multi-year use,” Bertelson said.
In accordance with state and federal rules, the decision and cost to manage the local Canada goose situation lies with local leaders.
According to the USDA Wildlife Services, nuisance goose populations may be managed in a variety of ways. These methods include: No feeding ordinances, education, habitat modification, fence barriers, scare devices, repellants or population management.