Dogs, paint balls used to shoo away geese

BEND — Park workers in Bend have been sent on a wild goose chase.

In the past week, Bend Park & Recreation District staff have been trying to shoo geese from city parks along the Deschutes River by using remote-control boats, biodegradable paint balls and slingshots loaded with gravel. On the river bank, trained dogs try to chase the geese away.

Paul Stell, the park district's natural resources manager, said wild geese make a mess of parks with their droppings.

"They can take a perfectly clean park and reduce it to a barnyard in about four hours," Stell told The Bulletin.

Similar tactics have been used across the country in recent years as more and more communities have been inundated by geese, which are attracted to mowed and fertilized grass and tend to gather at golf courses, airports and parks.

Not everyone approves of the efforts, which include oiling goose eggs to prevent chicks from developing. Some are worried the birds might get hurt.

But Stell said he's told parks workers not to shoot at the birds, only into the water around them.

The city also has teamed with U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife specialist Mark Kinney, whose American rat terriers have been trained to chase off the birds.

On Thursday afternoon, across the river from McKay Park, one of Kinney's dogs trembled and yipped with excitement after spotting a small flock of about 10 birds on the river bank. The birds, however, merely moved into the river as the dog drew closer.

"Quite honestly, what we need to do is raise the harvest limit and reduce the population," Kinney said.

Stell estimated there are 100-120 unwelcome birds. He said the goal is to get them to "migrate like normal wild geese."

If they aren't out of town by May, the city might have to resort to the costly process of rounding up the birds and trucking them away or euthanizing some of them, Stell said.

When geese molt, they're stuck on the ground until new feathers come in. That happens in June, so the city is making an all-out effort to get rid of them before then.

Stell estimates the effort will cost about $10,000, but said that's less than half of the $22,000 the city spent repairing goose damage last year.

Four shots from a paintball gun fired by parks employee Darren Till immediately had results near McKay Park. About two dozen geese and a number of ducks took flight and headed off.

"They're learning," Till said. "They'll see us pull up in the truck and stay about 30 or 40 feet ahead of us"

"We'll know we're successful when we pull up in the truck and they fly away," Stell said. "That's the goal."

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