By Kelly Nicholaides
for Montclair Local
Canada geese are welcome in Montclair, but their feces draw the ire of athletes on recreational Edgemont and Yantacaw fields that currently provide prime real estate for the fowl. The Environmental Commission at its Dec. 12 meeting advocated for non-lethal approaches.
An adult Canada goose weighs 6.6 to 19.8 pounds and defecates around twice its weight, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Town Council asked the Environmental Commission to evaluate the issue townwide. The group consulted with the Animal Protection League of New Jersey and cleanup vendors and explored a variety of options. “It’s not that geese are objectionable. It’s the poop complaints,” member Suzanne Aptman said. “There’s a movement on non-lethal remedies. Some towns round up [geese] and kill them, but a lot of towns say we have to find a better way.”
Montclair has used several methods to control the geese population.
For 10 years, the town has contracted with the company Goose Control Technology to conduct hazing or chasing with lasers and egg addling, according to Steve Wood. For the last three years, the town has also contracted with Geese Chasers, a firm that brings in collies a few times a week to chase the geese away January through April. When the geese lose their feathers, or molt, and can’t fly, the hazing ceases.
During the molting season from late May through early July, it’s not unusual to see more geese. The migratory birds will seek out shelter near water before they molt and stay until their feathers come back in. When the geese are done molting the collie and laser hazing will resume.
Egg addling is done in April and May and entails either puncturing the egg or covering it with vegetable oil, both of which prevents hatching. Steve Toth, a spokesperson for Goose Control Technology, said the town handles about eight nests a year. The geese, who partner for life, lay two to eight eggs per nest. The eggs have a 25-day incubation period.
Goose Control Technology has conducted two geese roundups in Montclair: one in 2007 and one last year. During each roundup, Goose Control rounded up about 25 geese, which were taken to a poultry farm to be put down. U.S. Fish and Wildlife regulations require the geese to be euthanized, not relocated. Toth said it would be unethical to take nuisance geese and make them another area’s problem. The birds could also carry diseases that could infect other bird-life populations, as well.
Signage to educate the public on Canada geese molting during spring, a reminder that the no feeding statute which carries a $500 fine, and a poop sweeping service were favored by the Commission as recommendations to the Council. “The signage is so people know that during molting, geese cannot fly. It’s temporary but it means we need to have some tolerance and pick up the poop,” Aptman said.
Feeding bread to Canada geese contributes to health problems. “They develop an ‘angel wing’ deformity if they eat too much bread,” said Lyle Landon, the Commission’s facilitator.
Other solutions included landscape changes to keep geese between water and shrubbery and using a vendor to clean up the poop. “They use a sweep and observe and track geese in different areas so in the end you get a baseline synthesis of what we are seeing,” said Aptman.
A “liquid fence” repellent derived from grape extract, a $375 unit, 75-yard capacity solar powered laser device was also suggested. Haddonfield, Point Pleasant, and Long Branch municipalities use them. “They screw into the ground and they don’t bother human eyes. To geese looks annoying,” Aptman said.
Egg addling is a last resort option, the Commission agreed, adding that the geese mate for life and sometimes lose their mates during molting and nesting. “Geese are very emotional. They mourn for three weeks when they lose their mate. Resident [not migratory] geese stay during nesting and molting, March through August have babies, sometimes lose fathers,” Aptman said.
Migrant geese differ in that when a goose loses its mate, another couple takes the widowed goose in until it finds another mate.
At Edgemont, native plantings to provider a barrier can be planted and save labor since they are permanent habitat modifications, the Commission noted.
Canada geese can present environmental issues throughout the state. Rutgers University estimates the population at 81,000 in New Jersey and over one million in the eastern United States, overpopulating the regions where they flock to campuses, lawns, and open land near bodies of water in urban and suburban landscapes. Canada geese frequently overgraze natural habitats.
Then there’s the poop. “It results in stormwater runoff bringing nitrogen intrusion into waterways,” said Gray Russell. “Geese live around water so the poop gets into our local streams and eventually into the Passaic River.”