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Greenwood Lake looks to continue catch-and-kill program to eliminate Canada geese

The Record, Bergen County logo The Record, Bergen County 3/1/2019 David M. Zimmer

WEST MILFORD — A controversial cull of more than 200 geese on Greenwood Lake in 2018 has the lake’s state-backed commission carefully considering its plans for this year.

Opponents of the catch-and-kill program adopted last year, including elected officials in New York State, are urging members to adopt alternate population control methods. Paul Zarrillo, the bi-state commission’s New Jersey chairman, said the group will consider all options, but a high population count during a pending survey may see the catch-and-kill continue.

“We looked at this for three or four years before we made the decision,” Zarrillo said. “The alternate methods would be great if this was a smaller lake or pond … (but) none seemed realistic.”

a large body of water: The view on Greenwood Lake from the New York side on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. The view on Greenwood Lake from the New York side on Wednesday, August 8, 2018.

An opposition with options

Clearing goose droppings from her 2-acre property has become a part of life, said Joyce Dannheim, who lives near the middle of the 1,920-acre lake in Warwick, New York. She agrees that the large birds are a nuisance that need management, but, killing them is overkill.

“It’s just part of living on the lake. It’s wildlife,” she said. "It's not like there's thousands of them out there."

In 2018, a United States Department of Agriculture survey revealed about 250 to 300 resident geese on Greenwood Lake, Zarrillo said. The resulting geese control program cost the commission about $21,000 under an USDA contract. It killed 206 live birds.

A team of five in kayaks herded 64 Canada geese down to Brown’s Point off Greenwood Lake Turnpike. From there, the birds were rounded into a pen created by temporary fencing. The geese, then molting and unable to fly, were gassed in a truck on site. Their meat went to animal sanctuaries, Zarrillo said.

The remaining 142 birds were persuaded by the kayak team to Thomas P. Morahan Waterfront Park in New York, where they were gathered up and taken offsite to be killed.

In recent months, Dannheim and a group from New York, called the Committee for Humane Geese Control, have pitched alternate control methods for 2019 and beyond. The Village Board in the Village of Greenwood Lake has also unanimously opposed the cull's continuation.

"It's reasonable to give the people who want to do this humanely the opportunity to see if they can accomplish reasonable goals. We all share the same goal. We all realize geese are a problem," said Jesse Dwyer, the village mayor who backed the cull in 2018.

The Canada goose problem

Lake communities and corporate centers, often create environments that attract Canada geese, said Fred Lubnow, the director of aquatic programs at regional environmental consulting firm Princeton Hydro. 

Mild winters convince about 80,000 to stay in the state all year, said Lawrence Hajna, a New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesman.

“A lot of lake communities have low-lying grass; open areas that go right up to the lake,” Lubnow said. “It’s perfect for them. They get plenty of grass, plenty of food and at the same time they’re feeding they’re pooping.”

A lone Canada goose, known to poop more than two dozen times a day, can load more than six-tenths of a gram of phosphorous into its home lake in a given day, according to data compiled by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and provided by Lubnow. Across a full year, that nearly half-pound of phosphorous has the potential to stimulate 550 pounds of algae biomass. 

Goose droppings have also been known to carry E.Coli and other diseases, such as Legionnaires disease and Salmonella, according to a 2014 Rutgers University study.

No cases involving those disease have been linked to direct contact with goose droppings, the study noted. However, poop-contaminated water presents a potential risk, it warned. Fears regarding that risk and frustration with the dockside mess have been the subject of complaints from marina owners and homeowners, Zarrillo said.

Alternate strategies

The commission is not expected to place the cull back on its agenda for discussion before it receives the results of a Canada goose population survey from the USDA this spring, Zarrillo said.

a boat is docked next to a body of water: One of many little marinas on Greenwood Lake, photographed on Wednesday, August 8, 2018. © Provided by Gannett Co., Inc. One of many little marinas on Greenwood Lake, photographed on Wednesday, August 8, 2018.

Nonetheless, Zarrillo said Greenwood Lake’s size and layout would complicate the use of vessels, dogs, lights, decoys or noisemakers to dissuade geese from populating the lake and feeding on its shores. Moreover, property owners are hesitant to adopt those methods, let their waterfront lawns grow tall or cover their lakefronts in plastic mesh or spray-based deterrents, Zarrillo said.

Catch-and-kill was replaced in Edgewater with laser lights following complaints. Officials in the riverside borough have reported success with alternate control methods, but efforts have been focused on public parkland.

Cupsaw Lake in Ringwood has employed early-morning kayak runs and solar-powered blinkers early to discourage geese in recent years. Greenwood Lake is approximately 30 times as large as Cupsaw Lake, however.

Lake Hopatcong, an even larger home-lined lake than Greenwood Lake, has used catch-and-kill tactics in the past but currently has no active geese management program, said Martin Kane of the Lake Hopatcong Foundation.

Lubnow said knee-high shrubs at the water’s edge will keep the birds off shorelines and ultimately from pooping on lawns and loading the water with detrimental nutrients. In combination with a federally-approved addling program, suitably vegetated lake shores often convince Canada geese that the area is unsuitable for reproduction, he said.

In addition to lobbying for no-feeding laws in the New York localities, the commission is likely to continue an egg-addling program this spring, Zarrillo said.

a bird sitting on grass: Meet Canada goose 1168-30285 of Allendale, which might have made the shortest migration in history. © COURTESY OF JIM WRIGHT Meet Canada goose 1168-30285 of Allendale, which might have made the shortest migration in history.

That USDA-managed program coats eggs in corn oil to prevent the embryo from developing. It has been backed by Dannheim, Village of Greenwood Lake officials and others who have opposed the cull.

“It’s going to be an ongoing problem,” Dannheim said of the geese. “I’d rather addle the eggs than have geese and their babies killed every year.”

Geese in New York: A century of poop, planes and Alec Baldwin

Related: Nonlethal geese control working, Edgewater says

Geese in New Jersey: Canada geese love Jersey, but the love is one-sided

Will the cull continue?

Michele Shenker, a member of the New York advocacy committee living near the lake in Warwick, said she has been petitioning residents to help her locate more than the handful of nests found by USDA representatives in 2018 to ensure addling becomes a successful part of a comprehensive control strategy that allows for the elimination of the cull.

Shenker said the cull is wasteful. The potential for nearby resident geese to fill the void left by the prior year's cull is high without more effective deterrents, she said.

"Good people can differ on whether or not it's humane," she said of the cull. "They're spending $18,000 to $20,000 a year to round up 200 geese, and what they're doing is freeing up real estate for more geese."

Reducing goose damage is one of the USDA Wildlife Services division’s top five assistance activities in New Jersey, records show. The division works with about 400 groups and property owners seeking goose-management assistance in New Jersey each year.

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This article originally appeared on North Jersey Record: Greenwood Lake looks to continue catch-and-kill program to eliminate Canada geese

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