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Larger geese populations in Denver area ruffle feathers

By Bruce Finley, Denver Post

1208 days ago   Article ID# 1540107
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American Bird Conservancy

DENVER, COLORADO (Denver Post) - Metro Denver goose populations are on the rise — both migratory and resident, sometimes angry — leading to increased conflicts with people, such as the egg clash this week at Town Center at Aurora Mall.

Optometry technician Fay Hamelin, 60, confronted contract roofers at the mall who were hurling debris down near a nest where two geese were guarding four eggs. Hamelin had been delivering water to the nesting geese.

When mall managers refused to halt the roofing, she called for backup. Aurora Animal Control Officer Barb Downen responded, invoking federal law. Geese cannot be killed without a permit, and nests with eggs cannot be disturbed.

"These are living creatures. Are people just going to smash their eggs?" Hamelin said. "Somebody has got to protect them."

Mall crews on Thursday began building a wall around the nest so that work could continue.

It was one of several recent incidents involving geese. A Longmont teen pleaded guilty to animal abuse this week after he and friends, using an SUV, chased geese onto a road and killed four in January. At Harmony Library in Fort Collins, resident geese pecking at patrons have forced staffers to post an "Aggressive Geese — Keep Walking" warning.

The latest population studies done by federal scientists show that Colorado's resident and migratory goose populations have more than doubled over the past three decades.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service "certainly recognizes the problems that too many geese in an area can cause, and we, together with our conservation partners, have been working diligently to allow for the reduction of resident Canada geese that cause problems," said Jim Dubovsky, an agency ornithologist who oversees goose and waterfowl in the central U.S.

A Special Geese Permit issued to Colorado Parks and Wildlife allows culling of problem geese — beyond what hunters kill.

"These measures were put in place to reduce numbers of resident Canada geese in order to reduce human-goose conflicts," Dubovsky said.

State wildlife managers think the resident- goose populations may have stabilized, CPW spokesman Theo Stein said.

A recent state study found that hunters killed about 15 percent of the 10,500 geese banded between 2003 and 2008 along the Front Range. State managers reduce problem geese by spraying corn oil on eggs in nests, which prevents the eggs from hatching without disturbing would-be parents.

Great migratory V-formations across the sky continue. On the ground, the social-tolerance tussles grew from manipulation of natural process. Heavy hunting diminished geese 40 years ago, and geese were reintroduced to preserve hunting, initially using captive birds that did not migrate. Modern urban landscapes, including greenways and ponds, enabled prolific breeding.

American Bird Conservancy experts now favor control over goose populations — beyond the estimated 2.6 million killed by hunters each year. They recommend hazing with noise-making devices, trained dogs and remote-controlled drones that fly over geese and mimic the cries of predatory eagles.

"What we have is a population of geese that is larger in many areas than it was historically, and the geese don't behave in the same way that they did a hundred years ago," said Dan Lebbin, a biologist for the conservancy.

"We have no problem with hunting geese if it is regulated. As long as the states are doing the activity — and they are doing it as humanely as possible — then that's the right way to go."

Copyright 2015 Denver Post   (Copyright Terms)
Updated 1208 days ago   Article ID# 1540107

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