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Geese Put Oakland in a Sticky Situation

January 17, 2006|From Associated Press

OAKLAND — Piles of goose waste at a city lake have officials struggling to clean up the mess for picnicking park-goers.

Full-time resident Canada geese arrived at the city's Lake Merritt in 1954 when several injured birds were introduced to the refuge. Their numbers have exploded in the last 20 years to at least 200 regulars, with about 2,000 geese descending on the park each summer, according to the National Audubon Society.

"Each bird produces about a pound of poop a day -- that's literally a ton each day," said Stephanie Benavidez, head naturalist at the Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge.

It is a staggering problem that has Oakland trying to figure out how to chase away the geese without running afoul of the Federal Migratory Bird and Endangered Species acts that protect many of the birds that live alongside the geese at Lake Merritt, which covers 150 acres.

"The goose droppings on the lawn have pretty much made the lawns unusable to families who want to have picnics or use the park with their children," said City Councilwoman Pat Kernighan, who represents the area. "It's very hard for people to use the park for recreation."

Some cities have tried planting grass varieties that Canada geese won't eat, or spraying lawns with chemicals that geese find distasteful.

Chasing the birds away is another popular trick. Cities hire firms with names such as Goosebusters or Wild Goose Chase, which use dogs -- trained to harass, not harm, geese -- to chase the birds away.

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