After years of goose fecal matter dotting campus and birds walking across streets, Stony Brook University is taking measures to remove the estimated 360 Canada geese that have made the campus their home for the past several years.
Stony Brook is employing a local contractor to use border collies to scare the geese away— a tactic supported by organizations like the Humane Society and PETA.
“Trained dog handlers will patrol the campus several times a day with highly trained herding dogs,” Gary Kaczmarczyk, executive director of Stony Brook Environmental Health and Safety, said. “These dogs, Border Collies, are trained to scare and discourage the birds from frequenting the area.”
This method of removing Canada geese is a humane alternative to techniques such as shooting adult geese, egg destruction, etc. which have become very common in many areas around North America where the geese are most prevalent.
Measures regarding removal of Canadian Geese populations have recently focused on non-lethal treatment due to a sharp decline of the geese population in 1995, when lenient hunting practices reduced numbers from 900,000 to 650,000 in North America.
Canadian Geese, identified by their black heads and white “chinstrap,” are present in every state. They are naturally migratory birds that have a lifespan of 10 to 24 years, according to National Geographic.
The expansive lifespan and resulting reproduction of the geese is the reason Stony Brook has decided to take action after years of nesting around campus.
“They return to the general area of their birth each year to mate and nest,” Kaczmarczyk said. “The geese population grows about 19.5% each year and we have seen a significant rise in the population on campus over that last few years.”
This growth in the geese population has led to increased damage and disruption, according to Kaczmarczyk. “They are over-grazing lawns and causing an accumulation of droppings and feathers on athletic fields, lawns and walkways. The droppings can contribute to excessive nutrient loading and algae issues to ponds, such as Roth Pond,” he said.
According to National Geographic, these effects are common. The commonality of these occurrences has led to the founding of organizations like Geese Peace, which aims to end the conflict between humans and geese by humanely managing their populations.
The geese removal effort is currently underway. However, the university will not scare away the geese during the summer molting season in accordance with the rules set by animal rights organizations like the Humane Society. During molting season the birds lose their feathers and are unable to fly. If the geese are still present on campus in the fall, the university will continue to use the dogs.
“The busiest schedule will be in the spring to discourage their nesting on campus. In the summer when geese are molting and unable to fly, geese may be herded out of certain areas, but will not be scared away” Kaczmarczyk said.
According to the Humane Society’s report on the geese removal, Stony Brook’s efforts are beginning as the geese are starting to nest, which occurs in March and April.
“The use of herding dogs to scare geese away will be used this spring to discourage their nesting on campus. The dogs will not chase nesting birds or touch their nests or eggs,” Kaczmarczyk said.
As April begins, the ability of Stony Brook to scare away the geese this semester is diminishing as more nesting geese would make it inhumane to attempt to scare them away.
The geese are problematic for some students
Laura Horvath Roa, freshman political science major, noted that one of her friends once got chased by geese. However she said that the “good thing about them is you get to see them around campus. It would be kind of boring without them.”
Although Shawna Burka, sophomore Political Science major, thinks that the geese are nice to look at around Roth Pod she said, “I hate having to avoid them, you can’t even lay down on the grass because of the [excrements].”