The relationship between the SIUE campus and Canada geese is a rocky one, and there is no easily agreed upon solution to the issue at hand.
German professor Doug Simms thinks there are different ways to solve the goose problem that could involve a campus-wide effort rather than a “charity harvest.”
“This is a source for senior projects, URCA projects, where looking at ways to live with the geese should also be addressed,” Simms said. “It’s a matter of maintaining.”
Simms said the geese are important to SIUE because they have been a big part of campus experience.
“I’ve always liked having the geese on campus. It’s something I associate with being on campus,” Simms said.
During the 19 years he has spent at SIUE, Vice Chancellor for Administration Kenneth Neher said he has watched the goose population and the associated issues accumulate.
According to Neher, the administration approved many humane methods that have been attempted to treat the growing population concern over the years.
“Some of the things they do is put a spray down. We just have too much land to put down a repellent, and it has to be redone all the time,” Neher said. “We have tried to change the way the vegetation is around the lake. They have tried fencing and some variety of other things. None of that has particularly worked, and we still wind up overpopulated with geese.”
Many alternative solutions have yet to be researched and tried on this campus, but for now, the geese are safe.
Although SIUE has not contacted him about his services, founder of Humane Goose Management Rib Bolton said he would love to work with the campus.
His St. Louis based company offers unique ways to reduce populations of geese. One of the main methods for control involves trained Border Collies to scare off the geese. Bolton said the measures used will prevent yearly nesting over time.
“[The dogs] are specifically trained to chase adult geese. They don’t even go after the goslings or other ducks,” Bolton said. “If the geese don’t fly away because of molting season, the dogs won’t chase them because they’re in it for the chase.”
Bolton said interest in this work stemmed from his background as a wildlife biologist and owning dogs his entire life.
Safety for people, the geese and his dogs is important to Bolton. He explained that the dogs are never turned loose on a nest where they may encounter an aggressive male goose. The dogs do not hurt the geese either.
“They are extremely friendly dogs, but when they know of geese in the area, they are so concentrated on going after the birds. Once I call them back or the birds are gone, then if they see somebody, they want to get petted,” Bolton said. “I usually don’t let that happen unless people call them over.”
In order to show how humane and effective his method is, Bolton advertises free demonstrations.
GeesePeace is another resource available, which offers many solutions and referrals to companies — including Bolton’s — that work to resolve geese issues humanely. According to geesepeace.com, the goal of this organization is to help educate the public on how to manage populations of resident geese using humane methods.
The GeesePeace organization holds leadership seminars on methods that teach audiences about safe interaction, how to locate geese nests, data collection and more.
PETA’s senior cruelty caseworker Kristin Simon warns that goose removal alone will not be permanently effective.
“We have seen time and again where people have been culling geese for years and it’s simply not working because the area is still attractive,” Simon said. “More animals are going to continue to come in as long as the area is attractive to them.”
Cornell University released a collaborative technical guide for goose management, which points out that using a combination of humane methods will help increase the success of goose management.
The guide also mentions that the time in which plans are implemented and community involvement are also very important techniques.
According to Cornell’s guide, “there is no ‘silver bullet,’ no one technique or strategy that can be used everywhere. Complexities of urban goose issues and the current limitations of available techniques make quick-fix solutions unlikely.”
In an attempt to control the population, SIUE was recently planning a collaborative effort with the United States Department of Agriculture to conduct a charitable goose harvest. The plan was canceled due to public outcry against the harvest.
Neher said he received many complaints about children being attacked in Cougar Village, as well as students and faculty having incidents. Sanitation was another reported problem. Cleaning the paths costs an estimated $6,000 a year to clean up.
“If you’ve walked down the sidewalk, you’ve done the poop dance,” Neher said.
For the first time, the state of Illinois was permitting the harvest to take place because this is the first year the USDA has a processing plant in Illinois licensed to do so, Neher said.
“We thought it would be a way to help control the population and had signed up and got the requisite permits to do that,” Neher said. “As part of that, the USDA required we let the community know we were doing it.”
During the molting season, the geese would have been collected and “humanely transported to a processing center.” Afterwards, the meat would be sent to charitable organizations.
USDA public affairs specialist Carol Bannerman explained the process in detail.
“They would be hand captured and placed into poultry cages. One aspect that we would be concerned about as we’re doing this, we wouldn’t do it on a day when there was a really bad rain storm,” Bannerman said. “If it was overly hot, we might choose to do it very early in the morning so that it would be the cooler part of the day.
She said smaller geese would never be caged with large geese and they would not spend more than 24 hours in the processing plant before being exterminated.
The harvest would have also helped food pantries receiving the meat, according to Bannerman.
“In other locations, our experience is that food charities generally have a lack of high quality protein,” Bannerman said. “There generally isn’t a problem with finding food charities that need and will accept the meat.”
Simon was concerned about the trauma the geese might face during transport and processing.
“These animals have no idea what’s going on and they’re frightened the whole time,” Simon said. “I can’t imagine that their slaughter would be any different than the slaughter of the millions of birds who are killed for food in the U.S. every year.”