Communities around the Great Lakes are struggling with a goose problem. Migratory Giant Canada geese are staying in towns longer, and in somecases, they’re never leaving. They make themselves at home as long asthey can find food and water. These so-called ”resident” geese aremultiplying. In fact, an in-city hunt is underway now in Upper Michiganto kill many of them. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michelle Corumvisited Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, to see how they’re handling thisbird that many consider a nuisance:
Communities around the Great Lakes are struggling with a goose
problem. Migratory Giant Canada geese are staying in towns
longer, and in some cases, they’re never leaving. They make
themselves at home as long as they can find food and water. These
so-called “resident” geese are multiplying. In fact, an in-city
hunt is underway now in Upper Michigan to kill many of them.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Michelle Corum visited Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, to see how they’re handling this bird that many consider a nuisance.
In Michigan’s Upper peninsula, the honk of the goose is like
Dave Gonyo says the first sound of a goose in April is thrilling.
“You know spring has arrived when they get here, they’re in
pairs, little geese are cute, big ones aren’t”
And there’s too many, he says. At least there were before
Sault St. Marie started moving them and hunting them.
“Two years ago we wouldn’t be walking here because it’d be so
covered with goose droppings. We have prisoners come in to keep
it clean. We couldn’t use this park and football fields, in fact,
some were deemed caustic.”
(Natural sound… honking)
Town officials tried different methods, short of a hunt, to get the
birds to move on. They asked people not to feed them. They tried
scaring them with starter pistols. They also
“translocated” 360 birds earlier this year. That means capturing
them, marking them and moving them to a less populated area west of
town. (But the process has drawbacks. It’s expensive and some
of the adult birds return “home” to the city after being moved.)
The Canada goose can weigh up to 14 pounds.
Joe Wartella lives in the city limits, near the water where the
“They come into your yard and poop and then you can get two
big buckets full, they try to attack you and the kids are
scared of them and it’s a problem.”
Canada geese are federally protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty
Act, and they can only be hunted with a license during hunting
With the number of birds in town still high, and complaints
growing, Sault Saint Marie (last year) created an ordinance to allow
in-city hunting. Hunters can shoot up to five birds each during
Michigan’s early goose season through September 10th. Last year,
155 Canada geese were shot by police and other hunters who got a
permit from the city. The hunt went off without much controversy.
Last year, only one protester against it showed up.
Whether they’re being shot or permanently leaving town, City Parks
and Recreation director Dan Wyers says there’s been improvement
“It’s my understanding we’re one of the few urban areas that
are doing this,(down in se Michigan),but as far as
a goose hunt, we’re one of the few that have a goose management
programs with in the city limits.
Wyers says they’re not out to get every goose, they just want to
take back their parks.
But despite claims of success, resident Joe Wartella says he
hasn’t had any relief.
“I don’t think it is any better. They’re back in the early
Wildlife biologist Rex Ainslee of the Michigan Department of Natural
Resources says geese are adaptable to their surroundings. That’s
why they’re reproducing faster in the cities than in remote areas. He says hunting is effective.
“The reason for removing them is . . .. . we’re replacing some
of the natural controls they’d have on them in the wild.”
The Parks and Rec director says their methods are subject to
change. They may continue the annual in-city hunts and they may
keep moving the birds, although the Department of Natural Resources
says that’s getting complicated too.
“We are concerned about running out of places to put the
birds, the western UP is about the last place.”
The hunt is supervised by the city police department.
Hunters have to register and get special training on hunting in the
city. They’ll will be looking for the Canada geese in parks,
football fields, the golf course and the sewage treatment plant.
I’m Michelle Corum for the Great Lakes Radio Consortium in Sault
Saint Marie, Michigan.