City OKs goose management plan at City Beach, other city parks

By Cameron Rasmusson
Reader Staff

The fight to preserve local parks from the negative effects of Canadian geese is moving into its next phase.

Sandpoint Parks and Recreation Director Kim Woodruff told council members Wednesday that thanks to coordination with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Idaho Department of Fish and Game and USDA Wildlife Services, he believes a catch-and-release plan is in place that will minimize the goose menace in city parks. Sandpoint City Council members approved the resolution for implementation this summer.

“There have been communities that have taken this course of action, seen success and reclaimed their park systems,” Woodruff told council members.

While geese are beautiful birds that add their share of charm to the region, their sheer numbers at city parks, particularly City Beach, have caused some headaches. Each adult goose can produce up to two pounds of fecal matter a day, and the city incurs costs of more than $10,000 to deter and clean up after the birds. The sheer amount of poop at local parks has prompted negative reactions from many visitors and also presents a health risk due to pathogens.

This isn’t the first stab at controlling the goose problem. Decoys, dog handlers, staff deterrence and ribbons have all been used to ward off geese, but they “have only served as band aids to a growing concern,” according to city documents.

Woodruff is ready for a change of course, one set to take the form of a capture-and-release program. The capturing phase will take place when the birds are molting and flightless — usually June. The birds will then be banded for identification and relocated.

Deploying the plan will take coordination between multiple government agencies. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services will issue a Migratory Bird Depredation Permit needed to authorize the capture and release of the geese. Idaho Fish and Game will assist in identifying relocation sites. USDA Wildlife Services, which specializes in resolving conflicts between human and animal interaction, will organize and manage the project, using its own banding permit to identify the geese. And the city of Sandpoint will provide staff to assist with goose capture. The entire cost to the city shouldn’t amount to more than $3,000.

While no harm should come to the geese during the early implementation of the program, more drastic measures may be required to ensure long-term success. Woodruff cautioned council member that by June 2020, banded geese that return to city parks may need to be humanely euthanized if the city is to make a lasting impact. While it’s not a prospect that excites Woodruff, he believes it’s the practical reality of the situation.

“The action tonight is to relocate only, but I want to be clear and transparent to you and the public about my recommendations for long-term and sustained success,” Woodruff said.

According to Woodruff, the enormous numbers of Canadian geese are a success story of conservation, but are now a problem nationwide. That has led to effective control plans that have seen success in other towns.  

“It’s probably going to take three, four, five years to see (a change,) but I truly think this is going to work,” Woodruff said.

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