The south metro area’s parks and golf courses have become popular spots for Canada geese, frustrating many walkers, golfers and dog owners.
“Redstone Park is disgusting right now,” Highlands Ranch resident Carrie Comeford wrote on the Facebook page Word of Mouth Highlands Ranch. “There are so many droppings around the playground there... unsavory.”
Other than the geese themselves, the most visible sign of the birds is their waste blanketing the ground of parks, golf courses and sometimes, sidewalks. However, the geese, which are a protected species by both federal and state law, can also damage golf course greens by pecking through the surface to get to sand, which aids their digestion.
So why do the geese like it here so much?
“There are two things that attract them,” said Dave Brueggeman, parks manager for South Suburban Parks and Recreation District. “Bodies of water and open grass to graze on.”
South Suburban manages more than 2,000 acres of open space across the south metro area — primarily in the Littleton, Lone Tree and west Centennial areas — with 74 parks and four golf courses.
South Suburban controls geese by “hazing” them when they become a nuisance — using air horns or The Goosinator, a remote-controlled “predator,” to scare them away. But hazing must be done constantly in order to keep the geese at bay.
“Resource-wise, it’s taxing,” Brueggeman said.
The Highlands Ranch Metro District uses a variety of tactics to attempt to scare geese away from Redstone Park, its largest complex, including coyote cutouts, balloons, streamers and remote-controlled devices, according parks and parkways manager Dirk Ambrose.
“Nothing seems to reliably work for very long, nor can we afford to have staff constantly move them along,” he said in an email.
Jamie Noebel, community relations manager of the Highlands Ranch Community Association, said residents have complained about bird droppings in parks and on sidewalks.
Ambrose said that goose complaints typically rise when the spring sports season comes around.
“Although it sure seems that the goose activity is on the rise this year, we have no hard data to confirm that,” he said.
Colorado Parks and Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Churchill said it is hard to tell if the goose population has risen in recent years, but, anecdotally, there does seem to be more lately. The fact that the metro area’s largest bodies of waters don’t freeze over during the winter is an attraction for the geese.
“We have open water all winter long so we have a heck of a lot of geese,” she said.
Tim Davis, superintendent at Englewood’s Broken Tee golf complex, said in an email that the problem seems bigger this year.
“It seems like every other golf course superintendent I talk to is dealing with a bigger mess than usual,” he said.
Davis said that Broken Tee currently uses pyrotechnic devices to scare the geese away, but that doesn’t prevent them from landing on the course in the first place. Flashing strobe lights help deter them from nesting on the course’s ponds.
Brueggeman said another thing that South Suburban can do is to control nests, with permitting from Parks and Wildlife. This is done by coating the eggs with corn oil, preventing them from hatching. The district is legally permitted to oil 200 eggs per year.
An alternative method to controlling geese that has emerged is to scare them away with trained dogs. Tim Eubank, owner Littleton’s of Up & Away Goose Control, said that border collies are particularly effective because their behavior mimics that of the Arctic fox, a natural predator.
Eubank said he currently contracts with 12 apartment complexes, including one where an elderly woman was knocked down by an attacking goose, three golf courses, four churches and a business park.
He has also developed and marketed The Predator, a remote-controlled device similar to The Goosinator.
Davis said that Broken Tee is working on a program to allow owners of herding breed dogs to train them on the course. He said dogs are typically the most effective form of goose hazing. He is also considering purchasing a remote-controlled device, which he says he has used effectively at another course he worked at.
Churchill said trained dogs have proven successful and are allowed as long as they don’t harm the geese.
Eubank’s dogs are trained not to touch the geese, but the geese don’t know that.
“We’re just politely asking the geese to go hang out somewhere else,” Eubank said.