April snowstorm could be reason for lower goose population in city

City unable to assess effectiveness of harassment efforts

Canada geese continue to be a nuisance at two Shawano city parks, but the birds are gathering in noticeably smaller numbers this year.

That might have less to do with the city’s goose harassment strategy than with the late-season monster blizzard that blanketed the area with nearly three feet of snow in mid-April, according to Park and Recreation Director Matt Hendricks.

“We may have a stroke of luck with that 33-inch snowstorm we had,” Hendricks told the Shawano Common Council Wednesday.

“That happened to come at a point in time when many geese were back,” he said. “Obviously, 33 inches of snow disrupted their habitat.”

Hendricks said that was the assessment of local Department of Natural Resources officials and other park and recreation contacts in the Green Bay area and northern region were reporting the same reduced goose population.

Meanwhile, areas to the south, including Oshkosh and Fond du Lac, are seeing significantly increased populations of geese, Hendricks said.

A large population of Canada geese has been an ongoing seasonal problem for Smalley Park and Huckleberry Harbor, with hundreds of birds congregating at those sites and leaving behind one to two pounds of feces per bird each day.

The Shawano Park and Recreation Commission in April abandoned a plan to round up and euthanize the geese after strong community opposition, opting instead for a non-lethal harassment plan to drive the geese away. The plan was also adopted by the Common Council.

A number of residents who attended that park and recreation commission meeting said they would volunteer to come out to the parks and assist with the harassment effort.

The harassment plan includes the use of green lasers, which have been effective at scaring the geese away, though they are only useful when it’s dark, placement of coyote decoys, and changes in the city ordinances that allow dogs in some of the parks and prohibit park visitors from feeding the geese or other wildlife.

The city had hoped to assess the effectiveness of its harassment strategy by the end of summer to determine whether it should be continued next year.

The army of citizens who said they were willing to volunteer their time to aid the harassment efforts rather than see the geese euthanized has not quite materialized.

“We have had volunteers,” Hendricks said. “Well, mainly one extremely dedicated volunteer showing up at about 4 o’clock every morning with the green lasers. His efforts, I think, have helped.”

Hendricks said it would be difficult to assess whether it’s the harassment efforts that are responsible for the lower goose population.

“It would be extremely difficult to try and put any sort of validity into that,” he said. “There’s no way we can answer that, and I don’t know that we will answer that even come September or October.”