A conservation group says birds would get much needed help from President
Bush’s proposed federal budget. Chuck Quirmbach reports:
A conservation group says birds would get much needed help from President
Bush’s proposed federal budget. Chuck Quirmbach reports:
The National Audubon Society and other organizations have been warning that
many bird species are in decline because of threats such as loss of habitat. The
President’s budget would put 36 million dollars more into wildlife refuges.
There’d be another eight million dollars for keeping track of bird populations and
helping migrating birds.
The Bush Administration has often focused on birds that are hunted. Greg
Butcher is with the Audobon Society. He says the budget initiative would help
“And that’s going to include ducks and geese that are hunted, but it’s also going
to include herons and terns, and other species that aren’t hunted. So it’s a very
Congress still has to act on the President’s budget. It contains many
controversial items, so that could delay final passage.
Matt Lehner owns a farm that sits between two condominium projects. His rooster has become a symbol for his community's fight against rapid development in the area. (Photo by Adam Allington)
Matt Lehner's chickens rest on his farm that sits between two condominium development projects. Recently, residents of the condominiums were upset because a rooster crowing in the early morning and during the day. (Photo by Adam Allington)
The management of Bay View Development tried to get a no-farm-animal ordinance passed by the Village of Suttons Bay council without notifying Matt Lehner of their intentions. Many locals rallied around him, using the rooster as a symbol of their dislike of developers continuing to build in the community. (Photo by Adam Allington)
Some communities are struggling to find the right balance between new development and preserving the farms and natural areas surrounding them. Some towns feel as though rapid development is out of control. Local residents sometimes feel as though they’re fighting big business to preserve their community’s way of life. Every once in a while, a champion for their fight emerges from the least likely of places. The GLRC’s Adam Allington reports:
Some communities are struggling with finding the right balance of new
development and preserving the farms and natural areas surrounding
them. Some towns feel as though rapid development is out of control.
Local residents sometimes feel as though they’re fighting big business to
preserve their community’s way of life. Every once in a while, a
champion for their fight emerges from the least likely of places. The
GLRC’s Adam Allington reports:
Matt Lehner is a mechanic and a small scale farmer. He lives on his
family’s homestead built by his great great grandfather in the late 1800’s.
These days the only animals on the farm a few chickens and geese that
Matt raises as a hobby.
“I’ve got bard rocks, I’ve got Rhode Island reds, I’ve got mini chickens
In a strange twist of fate Matt’s rooster has a become a local icon of sorts
by simply doing what roosters do best.
(Sound of crows)
Located just in northern Michigan near the Village of Suttons Bay, Matt’s
farm sits smack between two big condominium projects sitting on the
Bay, a scenic area off of Lake Michigan. Developers have tried to buy
the farm for years, but the family is not selling.
The new residents of the condos didn’t appreciate the early morning
crowing of Matt’s rooster… or their crowing any other part of the day for
that matter. Rather than an audible reminder of the rural character of the
area, the rooster crowing was a perceived as a problem by the
management of the Bay View Development. So they tried to get a no-
farm-animal ordinance passed by the village council.
“They tried to go to the village meeting to get an ordinance against
chickens without even notifying me they were doing this and the village
told them that this farm is 150 years old and it precedes their jurisdiction
by at least 50 years.”
In other words, Matt’s farm was not only there before the condos… it
was there before the village, and that wasn’t the end of the story. When a
small article about the dispute was published in the local newspaper, the
Leelanau Enterprise, locals rallied around the roosters with
surprising tenacity. Letters poured into the Enterprise. Most of which
were critical of the condominium’s attempt to get a crowing ban. It was
almost like the chicken scratched the surface of a tension that had been
simmering for years. Some residents of the county have the feeling that
their home is gradually becoming swallowed up by developers with no
connection to the land or its communities.
Ashlea Walter is a business owner from the nearby town of Empire. She
says that the rooster issue represents a kind of irony that she sees
happening every day.
“Yeah, I think the sentiment is that there is a lot of development all over
the county that we see and I’m not anti-development at all, but what I’m
seeing is the irony of the development. The great thing about this area is
its agricultural history, it’s picturesque towns and its natural beauty but
then what is so wonderful about the area is what the developers want to
get rid of.”
The developers didn’t think it was that big of a deal. They weren’t trying
to change the community. They just didn’t want the rooster waking up
Todd Demock is the construction superintendent for the Bay View
Development. He says that as far as the chickens are concerned he never
thought it would go this far.
“Apparently the roosters that were next door were making a bunch of
noise. It didn’t bother me I wasn’t paying much attention to it. One day
I came in and seen an officer here and Karen told me that she had to file
a complaint against it. So we kind of laughed it off and didn’t think it
would become a big deal.”
But it did become a big deal. As word traveled around the county, the
Suttons Bay rooster has become the hot topic at every local coffee hour,
beauty salon and town meeting. Most people just shake their head and
laugh, others are more animated.
And the chickens, well their life hasn’t got any easier. With their right to
crow already at risk, a fire recently claimed one of Matt Lehner’s coops.
Police Officer Burt Mead was assigned to investigate.
“My initial reaction was, due to the history and the problems that we had
investigated there before that there could be some kind of criminal
Turns out, no one had in fact put a hit out on the chickens.
“The principle reason it burned was that he had put a heat lamp in there.
Some of the chickens were in there nesting and he thought they would be
more comfortable, because it had been cold the previous two nights. So
he put the lamp in there and it was a temporary fixture. We think that it
probably fell over, the fire started precisely where he had placed the
lamp and the damages spread from there.”
As far as the dust up between the Lehner Farm and the Condo
development, the two parties have smoothed things over a bit. Matt will
keep his chickens but has agreed to slaughter some of the noisiest
roosters…and the developers they’ve offered to replace his coop with a
custom built “chicken condo”.
But the roosters won’t be forgotten. They’ve become a symbol for what
some people see as their threatened way of life… and a bumper sticker
battle cry for keeping the developers’ influence on the community
Coyotes have started to lose their wildlife habitat, and now they are adapting to cities and suburbs. (Photo courtesy of Michigan Department of Natural Resources)
Justin Brown is one of the researchers tracking coyotes in the suburbs. His research is exploring the predator's impact on Canada geese.
Coyotes have even found their way into downtowns of major cities.
A coyote was recently found in New York City's Central Park. Coyotes frequent Chicago's downtown Lincoln Park, in search of food such as young geese and other waterfowl.
As wildlife habitat is displaced by subdivisions, some animals are adapting to their new surroundings. That’s created new food for some kinds of predators, such as coyotes. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports on how their range is expanding:
As wildlife habitat is displaced by subdivisions, some animals are
adapting to their new surroundings. That’s created new food for some
kinds of predators, such as coyotes. The GLRC’s Lester Graham reports
on how their range is expanding:
Wile E. Coyote hasn’t always had the greatest life out in the wild.
(Sound of Roadrunner)
So… some coyotes are moving into the city, and why not? There’s a
smorgasbord for coyotes in the city.
(Sounds of ducks and geese)
We’re in Lincoln Park in downtown Chicago. Coyotes are occasionally
sighted around here. Rob Curtis has seen one in his neighborhood a few
miles north of here, but the wildlife photographer had a close encounter
with a coyote here in Lincoln Park.
“Well, I knew that it was living there because people had seen it before,
but I hadn’t seen it. And then, I was trying to photograph a rare bird that
was in front of the fence there and I was camouflaged and it came up
right in front on the other side of the fence without it noticing me, and
then it just walked on.”
The coyotes eat just about anything they can get a hold of: rats, young
geese, squirrels… and… sometimes pets. In the Chicago suburb,
Arlington Heights, coyotes have been a problem.
Police Sergeant Nick Pecora says sometimes coyotes are pretty brazen.
“In the last 18 months Arlington Heights has lost one Yorkshire Terrier,
taken off the patio in the owners presence, and in one case the dog had an
electronic collar on and when the coyote took it, it received a shock and
dropped the animal and ran away.”
Pecora says some Arlington Heights residents haven’t been too keen on
what some see as an intruding predator.
“Coyotes are indigenous to the area and – maybe it’s the perception that
this is a large animal and the bunnies, the skunks, the squirrels, that’s
what Arlington Heights is used to, and a 35-pound animal walking
through your yard, I think they’re perceived as the big, bad wolf, if you
And… although there hasn’t been a documented case of a coyote
attacking a human… some worry that they might.
Not too far away researchers are putting radio collars on coyotes to see
where they’re going and what they’re doing.
(Sound of tires on gravel)
Justin Brown is with a research project out of Ohio State University.
He’s just located the spot where a coyote is hiding. We can’t see him,
but we know he’s there because of the signal his collar is emitting.
“We very rarely see them, especially during the day. At the night —
during the night, occasionally we’ll get good visuals, but for the most
part during the day times you never see them.”
Brown and his colleagues are trying to figure out why there are more
coyotes in the suburbs and cities. One of the reasons is car and deer
accidents. Coyotes feed on the carcasses. The huge increase in Canada
geese is another reason.
“Food ranges from deer to geese to even just dog food people leave out.
There’s definitely a high variety of foods available to them. For habitat,
it can be anything, any little wood lot, anywhere that they can find a little
hiding spot for the daytime and then during the evenings they run (in) a
lot of areas you wouldn’t expect such as residential areas and
commercial parking lots. They pretty much run it all, anywhere that they
might come across a meal.”
You’d think there wouldn’t be that many places for a coyote to hide in
the city and suburbs. But, Brown says they hide in parks, golf courses, in
wood lots, graveyards… anyplace with a little cover. Brown’s research team
leader, Stan Gehrt, estimates there are something like two-thousand coyotes
in the Chicago metro area.Justin Brown says the truly amazing thing is that
coyotes have learned to adapt so well… and even survive a lot of automobile
“We’ve actually seen animals where they’re actually figuring out traffic
patterns. They know which roads are going which ways. We’ll see them
cross roads where they’ll actually look only the direction traffic should
be coming and then go and then stop in the middle and look in the other
direction for traffic and then go. So, they’ve definitely figured out how
the road systems work. It’s just amazing to see how they survive in this
And, the experts say, the coyotes are probably here to stay. Most
residents don’t want the police to shoot the animals. So some
municipalities tried to trap and relocate the animals to a more rural area,
but coyotes are very territorial, and they immediately head back to the
place where they were trapped. Often they’re hit by cars on the journey
back, but sometimes they make it home, and the predator in the suburbs
is back and hungry.
People sometimes move to the outer suburbs to be a little closer to nature. But when nature turns out to be a squirrel storing nuts in your attic or a raccoon looking for a free meal in your garbage can, there's conflict. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Some animals have adapted to urban areas. Canada geese, once rare, now irritate people because they defecate everywhere and sometimes damage lawns. (Photo by Lester Graham)
Throughout the Midwest, it’s becoming more and more common
to see wild animals living in the city and the suburbs. The number of coyotes, deer and Canada geese is growing. And suburbs keep sprawling… but the animals there stay put, and adapt to the new surroundings. That can cause conflicts between the animals… and people. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Ann-Elise Henzl reports:
Throughout the Midwest, it’s becoming more and more common
to see wild animals living in the city and the suburbs. The number of
coyotes, deer and Canada geese is growing. And suburbs keep sprawling…
but the animals there stay put, and adapt to the new surroundings. That
can cause conflicts between the animals… and people. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Ann-Elise Henzl reports:
It can get busy at wildlife rehabilitation centers. At this center, five thousand animals are treated and released each year. There’s a big variety, ranging from raccoons to sandhill cranes.
(Sound of birds chirping)
In spring and early summer, it’s very crowded in the nursery.
“We’ve got a young grackle in here, and he’s really on about the one-hour feeding stage learning the transition between us feeding him and feeding himself…”
Scott Diehl is the manager of the wildlife rehabilitation center at the Wisconsin humane society in Milwaukee. Dozens of young animals are being nursed back to health here in incubators and cages.
“Here’s little teenage gray squirrels in here playing around and goofing off and their play activity actually teaches them how to – it helps build their muscles, and teaches them how to climb…”
Many of the babies are here because their parents were run over by cars. That’s what happened to a female mallard who’s being examined by a wildlife rehabilitator, in the “triage” room.
“He’s just outstretching the wings, he’s feeling over the bones to see if he feels fractures and I can see from here that the left wing that he is examining looks like it has fractured metacarpals, so that’s the outer wing, kind of analogous to our fingers, we’ve got actually a little blood showing there. And so Mike is just going to flush that wound out with a little saline now he’s going to examine things, and quite frankly it doesn’t look like she’s using her legs well either.”
It turns out the duck has numerous broken bones and other serious health problems, so she’s euthanized. Mallards are often hit by cars in cities. That’s because they nest in grassy areas, then walk their babies to the water. That can mean crossing a number of streets.
Ricky Lein is the urban wildlife specialist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
He says people and animals are always getting into some kind of conflict in urban areas.
“Recently I had a person come in who owned twenty acres in a suburban area and talked about how they enjoyed the coyotes as long as they stayed on their territory but the coyote had made the decision to come into their backyard and eat a family cat, and I tried in a very polite way to point out that was the coyote’s territory.”
Lein says urban sprawl also causes problems by creating places that attract some wild animals
like white-tailed deer. They like areas where the woods meet wide-open lawns. That describes many suburban neighborhoods.
As a result, there are now more deer across the Midwest then ever before,
and the population of Canada geese is exploding in the same area. Lein says the geese have found their version of “heaven.”
“A lot of urban parks, condo complexes, whatnot, where you have a pond or storm water run-off pond and they keep five to ten acres of grass mowed around it, and they’ve eliminated hunting… that is heaven to a Canada goose.”
But some communities are considering killing urban geese in order to reduce the population.
Other cities have hired sharpshooters to kill urban deer. So the Humane Society of the United States has created a program called “Wild Neighbors.” Maggie Brasted is the organization’s director for urban wildlife conflicts.
“One of our goals is to help people find solutions so that they can coexist with these wild neighbors, with the wildlife around them, ’cause you know sometimes there are real problems. There are real concerns. It’s not that every time someone is upset about wild animals around them that they should just be told, “Oh just live with it,” there are real issues so we want to be able to offer them real practical solutions other than killing the animals.”
Brasted says there’s a complex relationship between humans and wild animals in urban areas.
“It’s not real simple to just say that you know they were here first or they shouldn’t be here. Or why are they around people? They’re adapting to what we do, they’re adapting to the changes we make. They’re taking advantage of whatever habitat niche that they find.”
Brasted says the wild animals that live in the city and suburbs are there to stay. So people will either have to find ways to live with them or to control their population.
Environmentalists are happy to see that sandhill crane populations are increasing. Some farmers, however, are not. (Photo courtesy of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)
At this time of year, one of the nation’s most exotic birds is nesting, and many wildlife lovers are rejoicing. Once close to extinction, the Eastern population of sandhill cranes has grown dramatically. In fact, their numbers are so big that they’re becoming a problem in some places – and there’s talk of starting a hunting season for cranes. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Sandy Hausman has the story:
At this time of year, one of the nation’s most exotic
birds is nesting, and many wildlife lovers are rejoicing. Once
close to extinction, the Eastern population of sandhill cranes
has grown dramatically. In fact, their numbers are so big that
they’re becoming a problem in some places – and there’s talk of
starting a hunting season for cranes. The Great Lakes Radio
Consortium’s Sandy Hausman has the story:
(Sound of marsh and birds)
It’s a cool spring morning, just before dawn. Brandon Krueger is watching a stretch of marshland along a country road in Central Wisconsin. Krueger works for the International Crane Foundation. He’s taking part in the annual Midwest crane count. Celebrating its thirtieth year, thousands of volunteers have fanned out across parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, Illinois and Iowa to look and listen for sandhill cranes.
“It’s a great sound to hear when you’re waking up. This is usually the earliest that I ever get up during the year. It’s a real struggle, but it can be worth it – for some of the things that you hear and the opportunity to see cranes.”
(Sound of crane call)
Krueger hears a breeding pair a half a mile away – exchanging what’s known as a unison call. The birds are big – up to five feet tall. A hundred years ago they made easy targets for hunters. In the 1930’s, naturalist Aldo Leopold lamented the loss of cranes – nearly hunted to extinction in Wisconsin. He knew of only 25 breeding pairs of sandhills in the state. But the federal government made it illegal to hunt cranes, and the state started working to restore bird habitat. Today, crane lovers celebrate an impressive comeback.
“I’ve talked with our leading field ecologist and he’s estimated upwards of forty-thousand sandhill cranes in the Midwest area.”
This year’s crane count is still being tallied, but Krueger heard nine birds and saw three flying by.
(Sound of cranes)
In the county next door, Troy Bartz claims to see many more birds than that on a daily basis.
“I’ll come home and it’s nothing for me to see two, three-hundred cranes in a field in one crack.”
Bartz has been farming for 13 years – growing corn, soy beans and alfalfa on nearly a hundred acres near Nina Creek.
(Sound of plow)
“Plants started disappearing out of the field with crane tracks right next to them. They go right down the row and they pull the shoots out of the ground and eat the kernels off the roots. I lose thousands of plants every year.”
The International Crane Foundation says damage in Wisconsin alone could total $100 million, and for family farmers, a year’s profit could be lost.
Bartz: “On the small acreage that I’m tilling, you can’t lose thousands of plants and not have some kind of an impact. That’s hundreds and hundreds of bushels I’m losing.”
Hausman: “And what’s the cash value on that?”
Bartz: “I figure anywhere between two to three-thousand dollars minimum every year.”
Hausman: “So what do you think the answer is?”
Bartz: “Shoot ‘em.”
There is some talk of having a hunting season for cranes, but that would require approval from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and many critics say the eastern population of sandhills is too small to permit hunting. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources says there are alternatives for farmers – machines called banger guns that make explosive sounds every few minutes. Troy Bartz’ neighbor, Mel Johnson, tried that, but found the birds quickly got used to the noise.
“The DNR warden brought the guns out. He said the best way is to mix a few regular shells in with it, he said, because it won’t scare ‘em away, the guns. He’s been taking them out for years, and he said they won’t scare any wildlife away – them guns.”
They’ve also tried scarecrows and colored ribbons but they didn’t work either. Farmers have had success with a product called Kernel Guard – a pesticide that made corn seeds taste bad to cranes, but this year the manufacturer stopped making it because one of its active ingredients can be toxic. Crane advocates are now asking the EPA to allow use of another chemical that’s already sprayed on golf courses to repel geese, but approval is not expected this year.
(Sound of cranes)
So crane lovers are keeping their fingers crossed – hoping farmers won’t be breaking the law by shooting the birds.
A tiger sits inside a cage at "Valley of the Kings Sanctuary and Retreat" in Sharon, Wisconsin. (Photo by Christina Shockley)
Although the tiger might look tame, some experts warn that domesticated big cats are still wild at heart... and can be dangerous. (Photo by Christina
Lions lounge at the sanctuary. (Photo by Christina Shockley)
When you think about lions or tigers, you probably think of African savannahs or Asian jungles… or the zoo. You probably don’t think about exotic cats living in the
house next door. But the number of big cats in homes has grown over the
Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley reports on one woman who has turned her home into a sanctuary for big cats that need a place to live:
When you think about lions or tigers, you probably think of African savannahs or Asian
jungles… or the zoo. You probably don’t think about exotic cats living in the house next
door. But the number of big cats in homes has grown over the years. The Great Lakes
Radio Consortium’s Christina Shockley reports on one woman who’s turned her home
into a sanctuary for big cats that need a place to live:
“Hi, handsome… hi, handsome. He loves to be scratched. He has absolutely no teeth.
He had every single one of his teeth taken out and he was declawed by a movie producer
in California. So he’d be safe to sit next to stars. Isn’t that sad? You can scratch and
cuddle him. He can’t hurt you in any way.”
Charlie is a big black panther.
He lives at “Valley of the Kings Sanctuary and Retreat” in the little town of Sharon,
About fifty big cats live here, along with bears, wolf hybrids, goats, foxes, chickens,
domestic cats, geese, ducks… and pretty much anything else that needs a home.
Before they got here, some of the animals—like Charlie— were altered so they’d be less
of a threat to people.
Others were mistreated in circuses… or zoos simply couldn’t take them in. Nearly all of
them would have been killed if they hadn’t found a home here…
Valley of the Kings is a private non-profit run by Jill Carnegie and her husband Jim Tomasi.
They live in a modest farmhouse on the sanctuary grounds. But even that has been partly
turned over to the animals.
At least five domestic cats roam the main floor, and Charlie the panther lives in a room
that’s been modified into a cage.
Jill Carnegie says animals have always been important in her life. She says they fill a
void. Carnegie says in her big family, she didn’t always get the attention she felt she
“I never felt loved, but I always felt it from the animals. Their love was unconditional.
They didn’t lie to you. They didn’t betray you. They didn’t stab you in the back. They
didn’t hurt you. They were always, always 180 percent there for me. Always.”
Then, when she was about four years old… Carnegie says she came to believe she had a
“I remember going out into our side yard, and sending a message to the squirrels to come
and they would all come. And I would have bread and treats for them. And they would
eat, and we would just be really happy.”
Carnegie believes everyone has the ability to communicate with animals, but most people
choose to ignore it. Carnegie says it has helped her understand the big cats in her care.
Out on the sanctuary grounds, it’s clear that every big cat has a personality, like Kia.
Block: “She has a thing about women. She doesn’t like them (laughs).”
Chris Block has been volunteering at the sanctuary for about eight years. He says some
of these animals come from people who wanted to keep them as pets.
“But she’s this way to basically most people. She’s very antisocial. (cougar hisses) She
was owned by a truck driver, a cross country truck driver who wanted to get a baby
cougar and wanted to take her in the cab with him.”
Block says average people who buy exotic animals as pets don’t know what they’re
getting into. The cats can attack unprovoked, need special food, and get a lot bigger than
they are when they’re young.
Jill Carnegie, the sanctuary owner, has allowed some big cats to roam free in her house,
including a spotted Asian leopard.
Carnegie would sometimes even let the leopard sleep in her bed at night.
But at least one expert says this is going too far.
Richard Farinato is the director of captive wildlife programs at the Humane Society of the
“Every time you come into direct contact or you allow someone to come into direct
contact situation, with a big cat, you’re just playing the numbers game. It’s only a matter
of time before someone’s going to get hurt. Badly.”
Carnegie says she knows the cats are dangerous. But she says her bond with the big cats
and her experience working with them sets her apart from the rest.
“Again it goes back to common sense. I’ve been doing this for 32 years. We’ve never
ever had an injury, ever. And again, we’ve only had a handful of cats that have been safe
in the house, that I would trust anybody with.”
Authorities and neighbors have had some concerns about the sanctuary. Jill Carnegie
says she’s not even thinking about giving it up.
But, partly because of the concerns, Carnegie wants to find a new location for Valley of
She says then she’d have more room to expand and take in additional animals that need
homes and care.
Giant Canada Geese, Belle Isle, Detroit. (Photo by Celeste Headlee)
In just thirty years, the Giant Canada Goose has gone from near extinction to a now-thriving population. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of geese gather on golf courses and in state parks, often causing problems for their human neighbors. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Celeste Headlee reports, some property owners have found a unique solution to the problem:
In just thirty years, the Giant Canada Goose has gone from near
extinction to a now thriving population. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of geese
gather on golf courses and in state parks, often causing problems for
their human neighbors. As the Great Lake Radio Consortium’s Celeste
Headlee reports, some property owners have found a unique solution to the
A year ago, dozens of families flocked to Pier Park in the Detroit suburb
Grosse Pointe Woods for an annual Easter egg hunt. Children rushed
grass with their brightly colored baskets and then stopped abruptly when
they found themselves surrounded by Giant Canada geese and their
Park manager Michelle Balke says local residents decided
the geese had to go.
“They left droppings everywhere. You couldn’t walk on the grass. They’re
aggressive. If kids start going up to them, they start hissing back and it
got really annoying. They were everywhere.”
It hasn’t always been like that. The Giant Canada goose was so rare 30
years ago that many scientists thought it was extinct. But a few of the
large birds were spotted in the 1960s. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources began
an aggressive recovery program and there are now three and a half million Canada geese in the
Conservation agencies say the birds cause hundreds of thousands of
dollars in damage every year because of accumulated droppings, overgrazing,
attacks against people and threats to aircraft.
(sound of geese)
Tom Schneider is the curator of birds at the Detroit Zoo. He trades
glares with a large male bird that has taken up residence on a lawn at the zoo. The
big black and grey goose honks at Schneider, warning him to stay away
from his chosen territory. Schneider says one aggressive bird can be a bit of
a problem, but a large crowd of them is unacceptable.
“People tend to like them until they get to be a certain number where they
become a nuisance, and when they become a nuisance, they don’t want
any geese. So, you might have a lake that has five pairs on there and that’s
great, but if you have 50 pairs of geese on there, it’s not so good
Schneider is a member of the Canada Goose Coalition. The group
includes representatives from the government, hunters, scientists and animal
welfare organizations. The coalition deals with the large population of Canada
Geese in the Great Lakes region. Schneider says one of the problems
with the birds is that they eat grass. Most birds don’t.
“The problem is they don’t have very efficient digestive systems. So they
have to eat a lot of food to get their nutrients, so as a result they
produce a lot of fecal material.”
Schneider says property owners have struggled to deal with large
groups of geese and the droppings they leave behind. One adult goose produces
about a pound and a half of droppings every day. When there are a hundred
birds on a piece of property… well… you can imagine. But the birds are federally
protected. So there’s not a lot that you can do.
(sound of geese)
But…one guy got an idea and called Barbara Ray. Ray had for years
been training border collies to drive sheep when she got a call from a man
looking for a dog to herd birds.
“I had a golf course superintendent who just had an idea about trying to
use these dogs to herd the geese… not chase them because the dog
needed to be under control. We certainly can’t have a dog that catches the geese
and shreds them like other breeds would be prone to do. But one that is
simply jazzed by staring down and moving birds in a specific direction.”
Ray says it was easy for the dogs to learn how to drive geese and one
dog can cover several hundred acres. She says border collies naturally
intimidate prey without barking or attacking, so they’re perfect for this
kind of work.
“What they’re using is a ‘let’s make my day’ kind of approach where the
stock believes if they don’t move as the dog quietly approaches, staring at
them in this intimidating fashion, that they’re probably going to follow up and
do something more demonstrative.”
Ray has built a business around training goose dogs and has so far
sold more than 500 of the dogs. One of those border collies ended up at Pier Park
in suburban Detroit. Manager Michelle Balke says it’s been a year since
the dog, Kate, arrived and there is no longer a problem with geese at the
“She had just gotten rid of them, whether they sense her being here or
what, but they just stopped coming around. They were going next door, they
were hanging out on Lakeshore Road out there, but they just weren’t coming
into the park.”
(ambient sound of geese fade in)
Tom Schneider says goose dogs are an effective, humane way to deal
with Canada geese on private property, but it’s not a permanent solution to
the problem of overpopulation.
“The problem with that program… in many ways, it shifts those problem
geese to a different location, so maybe they may no longer be a problem on
this golf course but now they’re a problem on that golf course. While that
does provide some remedy for the people in those situations, it doesn’t really
solve the bigger, overall picture.”
Schneider has led a goose management program for over a decade at
the Detroit Zoo that involves destroying eggs. That program has cut the
number of geese on zoo grounds from between 500 and a thousand to 50.
This year, Schneider’s team will travel to other places to destroy eggs
and encourage thousands of geese to move on. But you have to have a
permit to do that which is not that easy to do. Schneider thinks goose dogs might
be the best alternative for private landowners.
(ambient sound out)
Goose dogs have become so popular that more than a dozen
companies around the U.S. now train and sell border collies to chase the Giant Canada
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Celeste Headlee.
Growing numbers of Canada geese are taking up residence in the Midwest instead of migrating in the spring and fall. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Annie MacDowell reports, government officials and environmental groups are coming up with creative ways to control the growing population:
Growing numbers of Canada Geese are taking up residence in the Midwest instead of
migrating in the spring and fall. As the Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Annie
Macdowell reports – government officials and environmental groups are coming up with
creative ways to control the growing population:
Canada geese are becoming a familiar sight on front lawns and in retention ponds across
the Midwest. Goose excrement is a nuisance to residents and bacteria in their feces can
make people sick. Vid Rapsys owns an Illinois franchise of the “Geese Police.” This
special force uses border collies to gather and frighten geese away from private property
without hurting them.
“Tell the dog to come by while it’s in the water. It’s going to swim in a clockwise motion
around the geese in the water. The geese become very unnerved when animals come in
the water after them. Especially animals that looked like they were stalking them on land
and now there’s someone after them in water.”
But Rapsys adds the Border collies don’t offer a permanent solution. Usually the birds
just fly a couple of miles away and settle in someone else’s lawn or pond. More
permanent options involve shaking goose eggs or covering them with vegetable
oil, which stops the growth of the embryo. But aside from killing geese during hunting
season, people are not allowed to harm a Canada goose. They’re protected by a law
written in the early 1900s.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Annie
This bread was dumped at a park along a Great Lakes beach for the gulls, geese, and squirrels that live there. Beach visitors often assume high bacteria levels that close beaches to swimmers are solely due to sewer overflows, but animals that defecate in the area also contribute to the problem.
This past summer beaches around the Great Lakes were closed in record numbers because of high bacteria counts. One government study indicates part of the problem might be animal feces, but the public does not seem to be aware that of the connection. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
This past summer beaches around the Great Lakes were closed in record numbers
because of high bacteria counts. One government study indicates part of the problem
might be animal feces, but the public does not seem to be aware that of the connection.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
High levels of bacteria in the water can make swimmers sick. Cameron Davis is with the
watchdog group, the Lake Michigan Federation. He says more can be done to stop the
contamination if sewer plants are improved and if beach visitors were more aware that
leaving food waste and feeding gulls and geese adds to the problem. That’s because the
birds defecate more, causing higher levels of bacteria along the shore.
“So, we’ve got the sewage treatment agencies saying ‘Oh, no. It’s the geese and the
gulls,’ and we’ve got the people feeding the birds saying ‘Oh, no. It’s sewage treatment
plants.’ So, you can see, it’s a combination of sources and there are things — I don’t care
what anybody says — there are things we can do to help solve the problem with all those
Davis says local governments need to start identifying and eliminating those sources of
beach contamination, starting with improving sewer plants and getting people to clean up
after their visits and to stop feeding wildlife at the beaches.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.