Bend's Geese Waddle That Last Mile

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Get ready for a major outbreak of wailing and hand-wringing from animal lovers: The Bend Metro Park and Recreation District sent geese to the gas chamber this week.

On Tuesday, Park & Rec rounded up more than 100 of the Canada geese that infest Drake Park, put them one at a time into what The Bulletin’s account described as “a trash-can-sized enclosure filled with carbon dioxide,” and terminated them with extreme prejudice. The meat from the gassed geese will be donated to local food banks to provide meals for low-income people.

I’m being a little facetious about it, but really the executions are not something I’m rejoicing over. The geese are beautiful birds, and it’s a shame they had to be killed.

But what alternative was there? Over the decades, Park & Rec has exhausted every other option.

It tried trapping the geese and transporting them elsewhere. The geese came back.

It tried scaring them away with dogs, people in canoes and cannon fire. The geese barely batted an eye.

It tried contraception, by oiling goose eggs so they wouldn’t hatch. The geese’s powers of procreation proved too much for that strategy.

Meanwhile, the goose population kept growing – and so did the massive deposits of goose guano that made walking through the park akin to picking your way through a minefield, and made spreading a picnic blanket on the grass all but impossible.

Lest anybody lament that the goose executions upset the “balance of nature,” it must be noted that there’s nothing natural about the overwhelming numbers of geese in Drake Park. Canada geese are normally migratory, but over the years they’ve figured out that the park is such a perfect goose haven – no hunters, few natural predators, little kids feeding them bread – that they’ve made it a year-round home.

Bend is by no means the only place with a Canada goose problem, as Wikipedia writes: “In recent years, Canada Geese populations in some areas have grown substantially, so much so that many consider them pests (for their droppings, the bacteria in their droppings, noise and confrontational behavior). This problem is partially due to the removal of natural predators and an abundance of safe, man-made bodies of water (such as on golf courses, public parks and beaches, and in planned communities).”

So, reluctantly, Park & Rec caught 109 of the local geese that had been determined to be “permanent residents” and made them waddle that last mile. Twenty-seven “non-resident” geese were released to return to the park.

Now we’ll see if the goose population stabilizes. If in a few months or years it gets out of hand again, the agency might have to gas some more geese. That would be unfortunate, but Park & Rec’s gotta do what it’s gotta do. Drake Park is a park, not a wilderness area – and parks, after all, are for people.


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