Boston city councilors will take a gander at a gaggle of ideas to deal with geese and the crap they leave behind.
At a hearing today, councilors heard suggestions that included fining people who feed them, having parks workers and volunteers coat goose eggs with oil, which kills the chicks but fools the mother goose so she doesn't lay more eggs - and buying more umbrellas for city parks workers with which to find off angry geese when they try to grab the eggs to coat them in oil.
Councilors said it's past time to do something about the non-migrating geese - descendants of geese introduced into the Boston area in the 1930s - because their numbers seem to be going up. At-large Councilor Annissa Essaibi-George, who called for the hearing, said the geese leave a mess behind in city parks and threaten small children and dogs. Councilor Josh Zakim said some of the most mild-mannered constituents has in the Fenway grow near apoplectic when geese come up - and make suggestions on what to do with them that are so brutal and possibly illegal that he said he couldn't bring them up in a public hearing.
"Growing up in Hyde Park, I honestly don't remember this many geese, ever," City Councilor Tim McCarthy added. His neighborhood now has Goose Crossing signs on Turtle Pond Parkway along the Mother Brook.
Emmanuel College now has to send out crews every morning to clean bird crap and feathers off the fields it maintains at Roberto Clemente Park, college Athletic Director Alexis Mastronardi said. Mastronardi, who told the council she suspects the geese moved to the park due to the ongoing Army Corps of Engineers work along the Muddy River, said one day workers collected 30 gallons just of goose feces.
Volunteer groups that take care of the Esplanade and the Public Garden say they are already spending upwards of $24,000 a year to bring in border collies to scare the birds away. Along the Esplande, workers now even deploy little solar-powered towers with night-time lights that mimic the look of glowing predator eyes. The problem, they say, is that the geese are not as stupid as they look and return.
Officials added that really doing something about geese in the Boston area - state officials estimate there are about 8,000 geese within 128 that don't migrate - is a regional issue that will take cooperation between neighboring communities and large land owners, for example, a certain large university with holdings in Allston that may be shooing geese off its property onto neighboring DCR land along the Charles River.
"The Emerald Necklace is just as much a part of Brookline as it is Boston," city Parks and Recreation Commissioner Christopher Cook said.
Officials from groups such as the MSPCA and the Humane Society said that a key anser answer to any effort to reduce goose poop means reducing the number of geese. And since hunting is illegal in Boston, and goose nests are protected by the MBTA - the Migratory Bird Treaty Act - that means an emphasis on "addling," which is the art of coating eggs with oil, which kills the developing chicks, and then slipping the eggs back in the nest, which fools the mother long enough that she doesn't lay a fresh batch of eggs.
Boston park rangers this year addled 425 eggs collected from 80 nests. When asked how much it would cost to expand the program, Cook said the extra costs would be minimal - and mostly for buying umbrellas so that the park rangers can defend themselves from mad geese.
Cook added that park visitors are barred from feeding geese and ducks, but that the city currently has no fines to back that up. City Councilors agreed to look at fines - coupled with "friendly" signs that explain why people shouldn't feed geese. While state wildlife officials said well written signs can work, some officials from local animal groups pooh-poohed their usefulness, pointing out how people keep feeding geese and ducks in the Public Garden.