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Bye-bye geese

The geese that like to hang out at South Park in Waupaca could end up at food pantries this summer.

When the Waupaca Common Council met April 19, it approved the idea of proceeding with a geese roundup this year if necessary.

“At some point last summer, we had 250 (geese),” Sandy Testin said during a public hearing that preceded the council meeting.

Testin lives on Mirror Lake and is a member of the Friends of Mirror and Shadow Lakes – a group that has worked with the city the past several years to rid the two lakes of the geese. The attempts have included pyrotechnics and even a fake coyote. They’ve been unsuccessful.

Each summer, the lifeguards at South Park’s beach spend a great deal of time cleaning up the goose poop on the beach.

Testin is a registered nurse at Riverside Medical Center and sees the geese as more than a nuisance. She says it is a health issue.

The purpose of the April 19 public hearing was to learn about geese eradication control. One measure involves rounding up the geese, testing their tissue and blood for diseases, euthanizing them and then donating the meat to food pantries. No one spoke against the idea, and the council later approved taking that measure if needed.

Barry Benson is a damage-control specialist with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Wildlife Services.

“Pyrotechnics can scare them off a particular spot,” he said. “Usually, you have to use a combination of things to be effective.”

Benson said there is a two- to three-week period in late June to early July when the geese lose their flight feathers.

That would be the prime time for a roundup.

When the specialists do a roundup, they surround the geese and get them into crates. Benson said the animals are handled humanely.

“Of all the situations where it’s been done, only one had a contamination problem,” he said. “As of today, 62 communities have participated.”

About 4,000 geese have been donated to food pantries or to Native American populations.

“If you do this, there will be an immediate impact,” Benson said. “You will still have some geese, but the other measures you use should work. Some communities do it once per year; others every five years.”

The cost to do so is about $5,000.

Parks Superintendent Russ Montgomery said property owners and neighbors have donated money to cover the cost.

Benson said that once they are told where the geese are located, the specialists can be in and out in about 30 minutes.

The Friends of Mirror and Shadow Lakes support the idea.

Carol Elvery is a member of the group and said, “Every meeting we have, the issue comes up. It’s horrible at the boat landing in the summer with all the geese.”

Montgomery said the city learned about this option after contacting the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

If the city does decide to do a geese roundup, the USDA will work with the city on the permit process.

In addition, the city already has a permit that allows it to oil the eggs of geese. Oiling the eggs results in nest failures, with the hope that the goose couples then decide to go elsewhere to nest.

Montgomery said the geese are already laying eggs and that they hatch in 30 days.

This leaves a small window to oil the eggs.

If residents discover nests, they should contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 715-258-4435. The department will then follow up.

“We don’t have the time or the staff to track them down,” he said.

In the meantime, the city plans to first try its typical geese measures to see what happens.

Montgomery said that if there is a geese roundup this summer, the geese will be removed and processed outside of the city.

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