In Darien budget, geese-chasing dogs not a priority
DARIEN — They can be seen flocking at the Town Hall baseball fields or by the water at Tilley Pond Park.
Canada geese have a presence in town. But does that constitute a problem — a problem worth spending thousands to solve? Director of Parks and Recreation Pamela Gery doesn’t think so.
“There really isn’t a geese problem. After so many years I felt we should take a look at whether there’s an issue or not,” Gery said, referencing money allotted by the town as far back as 2010-2011 — in the ballpark of $30,000 annually — for pest control, including control of the population of geese in town.
In budgeting this year, however, the Board of Finance and Board of Selectmen, after consulting Gery, decided to zero out the pest control fund, despite a diminished request from Parks and Recreation for $15,600 toward the line item, ending, for at least the time being, geese removal efforts.
According to Gery, the town had previously employed Greenwich-based Geese Relief, which uses seven handlers and 10 specially trained border collies that act as predators and scare geese away without ever making contact with the animals.
It’s an odd solution that Gery said had been effective, but that may no longer be necessary given increased human usage in the town’s parks since she took over the department two years ago.
Life of the Goose
Canada geese are among Connecticut’s earliest spring nesters.
They may start to defend territories in March and nest by early April.
Canada geese are monogamous and pairs mate for life.
They use a variety of nest sites, such as islands, man-made structures, muskrat and beaver lodges, and shoreline edges. Nest site requirements include proximity to water, cover for the nest, and good visibility for the incubating bird.
Usually 4 to 7 white eggs are laid and incubated by the female while the male stands guard a short distance away. Incubation lasts about 28 days.
Hatching occurs from April through June, with the peak occurring the first week of May. Nesting success and gosling survival are generally high. Most nest losses are caused by flooding, desertion, and predation.
Egg predators include raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, dogs, and gulls. Young goslings may be preyed upon by snapping turtles, gulls, owls, and coyotes.
— The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection
“We have a lot more activity in the parks so there might not be a geese problem. I can’t imagine geese would be flocking to busy parks,” Gery said.
In addition, Gery said she has not received complaints about the presence of geese in town, making it harder to justify shelling out for their removal.
At a recent Board of Finance meeting, before the budget was set, First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said similarly the money might be better saved, especially given the amount that had been spent by the town year-over-year to mitigate the impact of geese.
“It’s an extraordinary amount of money for a very unusual solution to a difficult problem,” Stevenson said “With the amount of money that the town has spent on...the dogs scaring the geese away, we would have been much better to actually buy a dog, train a dog and deploy the dog with our staff across town — because it really was hundreds of thousands of dollars on geese control.”
Still, Gery said that her department will continue to monitor the geese situation, and is prepared to act if complaints start coming in.
“We’re going to keep a watchful eye on it. If we feel like we need to put some money towards it, we will,” Gery said.