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'A complicated issue': As more geese come to CT park, officials look for ways to clean up the mess

Geese forage on the Bristol
Jennifer Ahrens
Connecticut Public
Geese forage at Veterans Boulevard Park in Bristol where the Board of Park commissioners is discussing measures to decrease their population.

Veterans Memorial Boulevard Park in Bristol, Connecticut, is a long rectangular greenway complete with granite memorials, a large lagoon with fountain, a walking path and dozens of Canada geese.

And for some, those geese are a problem.

Residents have complained that there are too many geese, resulting in an excessive amount of feces, which they say is unsightly and unhealthy.

While geese droppings can sometimes contain E. coli, salmonella and cryptosporidium, Jenny Dickson, Connecticut’s acting Bureau Chief of National Resources, said there has to be direct contact with the droppings for there to be any chance of infection.

But she said there are other hazards with an area having a large goose population.

“Goose droppings can make the ground really slippery, increasing the chance that somebody could slip and fall,” Dickson said. “It also can create hazards in terms of public safety — from a traffic perspective — because geese will walk out in front of oncoming traffic.”

Bristol’s Board of Park Commissioners will discuss non-lethal options to decrease the park’s population of geese at its next meeting Wednesday, May 15.

Last month, its meeting drew a lot of public participation because the city announced the Board was considering a $3,365 plan which would involve killing some of the geese.

Since that meeting, in which numerous residents voiced their opposition to killing the geese, Bristol’s Mayor Jeff Caggiano called on community members to help raise money to pay for non-lethal geese deterrent plans.

Officials are now considering placing temporary fencing around ponds during migration season, hiring a feces removal service and employing dogs or lasers to harass the geese to go away.

The city says that last option could cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 per year, because it must be done multiple times a year.

Geese will always be drawn to places like Veterans Memorial Park because they provide an ideal home with easy access to water and large areas of short grass, according to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

Dickson said "letting grass grow taller along the edges of water bodies ... is going to be less attractive to geese than closely manicured lawns or parks.”

That’s because tall grasses prevent geese from keeping an eye on potential predators. Geese also need open space to land and take off.

DEEP recommends increasing the number of shrubs and trees in areas which attract a large amount of unwanted geese.

But that can often go against the space’s intended recreational use, Dickson said.

“It’s a complicated issue,” Dickson said. “The natural world almost always is.”

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.