Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Canada Geese Wreck Havok At Florissant Valley

Story and photos by James Hess
A Canada Goose quartet lounges over the doors to
Engineering on a cloudy day in late February. 

Wildlife and waterfowl are two things that go together, but mixing waterfowl and college campuses can create a stir of issues. At Florissant Valley, numerous groups of geese (sometimes two, sometimes eight or ten) have come together on campus grounds and more often where students regularly walk. Canada geese have been seen walking through campus walkways, campus gardens and even sitting atop buildings. Geese have even more recently been seen accompanied by little goslings on campus grounds. The fact that they are nesting creates more problems, since geese can be very aggressive when protecting their young. Wild geese, in particular, have been known to viciously attack humans when approaching too close to them. They attack even harder when humans venture too close to their goslings.
If that isn’t bad enough, they even feed where many students regular walk. Students Shannon Scurlock and Gwen Johnson, both attending Florissant Valley, were asked about the geese. “They are EVERYWHERE,” said student Shannon Scurlock. “Where I notice them is in the grassy areas near the main buildings, and even on top of the administration building.” Gwen Johnson has noticed the Missouri-native waterfowl wandering the campus herself. “I’ve seen them near the Math Building and by the Library,” commented Johnson. “I almost always see them on top of the buildings.”

Scurlock and Johnson both pointed out how aggressive they can be. While Johnson noted their hissing and their chasing after people, Scurlock pointed out that “they hiss and spread their wings to make themselves look bigger like they want to fight. I just keep walking and make eye contact with them.” When asked how many times they had seen that happen to people, Johnson stated that she had seen it happen to her friend at least three or five times. Scurlock on the other hand recalled a significant twenty to thirty instances of such behavior she has witnessed. Scurlock and Johnson expressed similar grave concern for the geese turning up at every corner on the campus. “It gets me on my toes” said a worried Scurlock “Because if I see more than geese than I’m taking a different way.” Johnson could not have agreed more: “It’s very scary,” she said, “not knowing whether or not they will attack you.”
The Missouri Department of Conservation reported a ten year increase in this State’s goose population from 30,000 in 2002 to about 65,000 in 2012. With that, many of these geese have started nesting in urban areas. Urban residents possess a huge risk when living near nests of Canada Geese.
This goose shows he is ready to attack
with a hiss at a passing student.
An officer with St. Louis Regional Office of the Conservation Department gave his take on issues with Canada Geese in Missouri. Records are not kept on how often geese attacks occur. “Geese do not normally intentionally attack humans as they are more likely to see a person than they are to attack you,” states the officer, who wishes his name not be mentioned. “Normally such attacks that occur are not when they are alone but if they are guarding their nest or their young”.  From one’s typical experience, they usually walk away from humans. Protection of their young would be the only motive for an attack. The officer then went on to give us some steps to avoid problems with geese such as further infestation.
“The best thing to do,” the officer had said, “would be to not make your area so attractive to geese. Well-manicured, fertilized lawns are perfect habitats for geese, but mainly if there are brushy areas or retention ponds lying around. So good landscaping practices such as proper fencing, and even though it looks pretty, it can be very inviting and welcoming to geese. They will come in and use that place for nesting, because a fertilized lawn provides plenty of nutrition for geese. Retention ponds even provide plenty of water to swim in, so the best thing to do is try to use good landscaping practices”.
The officer also went on to comment that the geese population has increased in the last four years because many people including urban area residents desire more golf course-like lawns and are building ponds that welcome wild geese.
We have some ways here to control geese flocking on college campus. We can make the grounds look beautiful, but we mustn’t go overboard in maintaining the landscape to a fresh country appearance. We humans and other animals love a natural look to the scenery, but it is when these three things clash together that problems arise.

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