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Wild Goose Chase

“The difference between animals and humans is that animals change themselves for the environment, but humans change the environment for themselves.”

This quotation by Ayn Rand, an American-Russian novelist and philosopher in the mid 1900’s, can well describe the trend of our times today.

On June 15, NBC-Channel 26 News “You Ask We Investigate”, reported that the Waupaca city council has approved, euthanizing a quanity of Canada geese, thereby effectivly exterminating 90% of the species, adults and goslings, from the areas of Mirror and Shadow Lakes and South Park in Waupaca.

As an Appleton resident, it has been a bit of a ‘wild goose chase’, to obtain further information [from the Mayor of Waupaca] about the issue. but I did find a detailed article in the Waupaca County Post that filled in the specifics. And with just a little research, I learned, that there are numerous and far more humane methods of controlling a Canada geese habitation problem other than the capture/killing and slaughter planned in Waupaca.

This extreme method of Canada geese ‘management’ is not a long term solution and raises many concerns about the integrity of the city and landowners who could prevent this situation from developing in the first place. Alternative and proactive methods of Canada geese management include: landscape modifications such as planting 30″ vegetation, ornamental shrubs or trees along shorelines(adds asethetics and creates an undesirable visual barrier deterring nesting site choices); egg depredation (oiling, turning, removal of eggs)-requires a federal permit- but prevents reproduction; humane goose harassment of nesting geese in early spring by boat patrols/herding dogs,etc., encourages geese to nest elsewhere; application of a non-toxic repellant to grass- applied by a licensed vendor- makes this food source undesirable; ‘no feeding’ signage and regulations- discourages geese to habituate with humans.

When these methods are used in an integrated approach, the Canada geese population can be sucessfully controlled in a humane manner. None of these methods appear to have been implemented by the city of Waupaca or the lakeshore residents who brought forth the complaint against the geese.

After speaking with Mr. Brad Koele from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, any community can decide if it wants to request a permit for a ’round-up'(geese kill). Usually, it is the result of insufficient efforts to be proactive in preventing a situation from getting out of hand. Mr. Koele stated that the major causes of an expanding Canada geese population and community-based problems, is the urban development of land, drainage pools and grassy fertilized lawns, which provide ample nesting and feeding grounds for the geese. It appears that the officials in Waupaca have not been as vigilant about preventing the expansion of Canada geese flocks, as they have been in seeking to destroy the population.

Mr. Koele stated that there has been only one request for an egg depredation permit, and that was submitted just this year by the acting Parks and Recreation supervisor in Waupaca. There has been significant response from the community on this issue, as one Waupaca citizen presented a petition, against the cull, [at the May 24 public hearing], which was signed by 495 residents.

However, the Waupaca city council, sided with the ‘Friends of Mirror and Shadow Lakes’, who stated that the geese have soiled their lawns, and the lifeguards at South Park, who begrudge their duties of poop-scooping the beach each morning.

The conflict of human vs. nature is an ever growing battle. But, it is an extremely perplexing irony that the people in Waupaca who describe themselves as ‘friends’ of that environment, raised enough money to fund the destruction of it’s natural inhabitants vs. applying effective preventative measures to manage the problem. It is a great loss to the wildlife in this eco-rich environment, and a poor reflection on the community and its leaders, who should be taking the initiative and responsibility to preserve it.

The Canada Goose, is an epic symbol of our upper North American region. It charts the change of seasons through migration and echoes an ancient call to nature, and an environment that was far more tolerant of its natural creatures, than the limitations and changing habitats of today. The Canada Goose has made a come-back from near destruction by the unregulated hunting practices of the past. It is still protected under Federal law and the 1918 Migratory Bird Act. But, it is really up to citizens and communities to determine the outcomes for future populations of Canada geese. Proactive, vigilant, conservation of our natural habitats and the wildlife that depend on them, is everyone’s duty to protect and preserve.

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