The Vermont club had arranged to have licensed hunters conduct a controlled shoot to cull the population of Canada geese that has taken up residency on its Lakeland course. Plans changed after animal rights groups and local residents pelted the club with social media messages and calls pleading for a more humane solution. The club will explore other options.
The Quechee Club postponed plans to invite hunters on its property in Quechee, Vt. after animal rights groups and residents lobbed complaints, The New York Times reported. Vermont’s hunting season for Canada geese began last week, and a local golf club planned to take advantage by culling an unwelcome gaggle.
C+RB reported on the original plans September 3.
But the Quechee Club, which runs two golf courses, capitulated after animal rights groups and local residents pelted the club with social media messages and calls pleading for a more humane solution, The Times reported. Such hunts are not unprecedented.
A few days after a local newspaper published an article on the proposed culling, the club’s property manager, Ken Lallier, said the hunt had been “postponed.”
“We’ve looked at a variety of options and we’re going to look at all of them again,” he said. Several calls to the club were not immediately returned, The Times reported.
Even if some of the birds had been shot, others would return, said David Feld, who runs GeesePeace, a nonprofit that provides training and education for cities and towns struggling to coexist with their avian neighbors, The Times reported.
“This is so divisive in communities,” said Feld, a retired systems engineer who was inspired to form the organization in 2000 after his hometown, Lake Barcroft, Va., “almost broke apart” over its dealings with geese, The Times reported.
Unlike their migratory brethren, which still commute south from Canada in the fall, resident geese are a man-made problem, Feld told The Times. Before the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, which protects the species to this day, market hunters bred the birds as live bait to hunt migrating geese, The Times reported. But when geese born in captivity were released into the wild, they became trapped because they are biologically programmed to nest in the area where they are born, he said.
The population later dwindled, and in the 1960s and ’70s, state and federal agencies enacted programs like Operation Mother Goose, which carefully relocated fragile nests and eggs, sometimes by helicopter, to safer habitats, The Times reported.
By the 1980s and ’90s, however, large numbers of geese were causing havoc in towns and cities, Feld told The Times, especially at places like golf courses, which offer tidy lakes for safety and a buffet of manicured grass for grazing.
It is tempting to shoot the birds, he said, because “a dead goose is not a pooping goose.” An adult can excrete a pound a day, The Times reported.
For the last two decades, Feld and his organization have worked with the Humane Society and other groups to develop methods that stabilize the population, The Times reported, sometimes by coating eggs in corn oil, which cuts the flow of oxygen through the shell.
“They will leave if they don’t have goslings,” Feld told The Times, and, most important, “if people don’t feed them.”
Another tactic to make the birds less comfortable: drive a Border collie around a lake in a motorboat, The Times reported.
Over the years, Feld has seen a lot of scam solutions for geese problems, like a plastic alligator with blinking red eyes, which might “scare a person,” The Times reported. Some towns have resorted to other methods. This summer, more than 1,600 geese were rounded up in Denver and fed to families in need, according to The Denver Post.
Louis Porter, the commissioner of Vermont’s Fish and Wildlife Department, said that it was not uncommon for golf clubs to invite hunters onto their property, The Times reported, but that he could not confirm whether the Quechee Club had conducted such a hunt before.
Vermont’s resident goose population has increased significantly since the early 1990s, according to data from the department, The Times reported.
“When they congregate into larger and larger numbers,” Porter said, “they can have an impact on farmers’ fields and on golf courses and on the environment itself.”
Fish and wildlife agencies at the state and federal levels have a “contradictory role,” he told The Times, to “make sure that wildlife populations are healthy and abundant” while also “managing those populations.”
Hunting “is an essential tool for us to manage wildlife populations,” he added.
Vermont sets strict guidelines in coordination with the Atlantic Flyway Council, which limits the length of hunting seasons and the number of geese a person is allowed to shoot, he told The Times. Nevertheless, some are averse to the practice.
The Green Mountain Animal Defenders, a statewide volunteer-run organization, rallied people on social media to pressure the Quechee Club not to hunt the birds, The Times reported.
Sharon MacNair, the organization’s president, wrote in an e-mail that the group “commends the club for their willingness to now explore long-term, humane methods.”
“We are consulting with wildlife rehabilitators, biologists and other experts to gather the best nonlethal options to share with the Quechee Club, should they decide to implement this approach,” she added.
A call to the Hartford town manager, Brannon Godfrey, was not immediately returned, The Times reported.
“People don’t need to fight,” said Feld of GeesePeace, who has not had any involvement in the Vermont controversy, The Times reported.
“There’s plenty of places that geese can go that nobody cares,” he said.