April 1, 2011
The Ridgewood News
GeesePeace seeking volunteers to help control goose population
By Michael Sedon
Residents are dealing with much less goose waste on grass playing fields and park lands due to the efforts of GeesePeace volunteers, who will begin their work as the nesting season gets under way in the area.
GeesePeace protocol controls the goose population using humane methods, according to volunteers with the organization. Since the program’s 2007 inception in Ridgewood, volunteers trained in the proper GeesePeace protocol have "oiled" 392 eggs in 80 nests in Ridgewood, which will result in 1,022 less adult geese by 2015, using a calculation endorsed by the program, according to the Ridgewood chapter of GeesePeace.
"Being employed by the Ridgewood Health department for the past 12 years, I have seen firsthand the successful efforts that have been made with geese control," said Dawn C. Cetrulo, supervisor of health in Ridgewood and vice president of the Bergen County Health Officers Society. "I would like to offer to anyone who is interested in becoming a volunteer with GeesePeace to e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org."
The protocol, as explained by David Feld, the national program director of GeesePeace who spoke at the James A. McFaul Environmental Center in Wyckoff last month, involves volunteers combing through parks, fields, golf courses and sometimes private property (with permission) searching for nests.
Volunteers usually go out in pairs, with one person using an open umbrella to "coax" the mother goose off a nest. The other volunteer then goes in with a bucket of water and corn oil. That volunteer will place one egg in the water, and if the egg does not float, they can remove it from the bucket, pat it dry with a rag and coat it with corn oil. Then the other eggs in the nest can be coated with corn oil without further float testing them.
When a goose egg is coated with corn oil, it prevents oxygen from passing through the outer shell, which will not allow further development of a gosling. But if any portion of the egg breaks the surface of the water and floats, that indicates a lung sack has developed. Volunteers are not allowed to coat "floaters" with corn oil because it means the gosling inside has nearly developed. Volunteers can test other eggs in that nest if they wish, since it is possible that not all the eggs have developed a lung sack.
After they have finished, volunteers mark the location of the nest and record the date and how many eggs have been oiled. This data is recorded on paper as well as on a small flag that is placed near the nest to notify other volunteers.
"If you treat the eggs and you work together in your communities, you’ll be successful," Feld said. "These geese are regional birds, and you have to have regional cooperation."
Geese that do not experience the stress of migration can live between 17 and 20 years, and two mating pairs of geese, throughout an eight-year period with a 40 percent gosling survival rate, produce about 108 adult geese in that time, Feld explained.
Geese will mate from mid-February to the end of March, and will nest from the end of March to mid-May, Feld said. In nine days, they lay six eggs, and volunteers generally have a 24-day window to find the nests and treat the eggs before they develop to the point where the egg will float, he added.
"GeesePeace has been very important to the county, and our effort is to expand this program and get everybody working to the same goal," said Peter Both, manager of the environmental center. "It’s a humane protocol for trying to control the goose population in the area."
The goose population has exploded in recent years due to overdevelopment, where tracts of forest are cut down and turned into corporate offices with sprawling lawns, or parks or "active recreational space" such as football, soccer and baseball fields, offering the geese a grassy field to eat and nest on, said Hackensack Riverkeeper Capt. Bill Sheehan.
"They set the perfect table for the geese, literally they set the table for them," Sheehan said. "One thing I learned very early in life is when you set the table you’ve got to expect company. You can go out of Bergen County along the Route 1 corridor and you’ll see all the areas that used to be wooded are now these sprawling corporate lawns, and there’s so many geese on them you can’t count them."
United Water is a partner with the Hackensack Riverkeeper in managing the upper part of the Hackensack Watershed. Ray Cywinski, United Water Watershed manager, explained how his company has worked to control the goose population on its properties.
A problem that officials are seeing with goose feces is the phosphorous content, which is used as a nutrient to fertilize lawns and passed through the goose into the water, Cywinski explained. This added nutrient feeds algae, which then blooms out of control and takes large amounts of oxygen out of the water, killing fish.
"You’re talking about tons of phosphorous fertilizer basically being generated and deposited into our waterways," Cywinski said. "Geese are the eating, defecating machines of the terrestrial world, and they’re just recycling all those nutrients. Algae blooms, and then when the algae die, sink to the bottom, they decompose, they use up the oxygen, you can have a depletion of oxygen supply, you could have a fish kill."
United Water has added large aeration systems to combat oxygen depletion in some of its waterways, Cywinski said, and the problem does cause additional costs "to some degree."
Another problem is the addition of bacteria, cryptosporidium, that live in the goose intestine, Cywinski noted.
"That is a very serious organism that could have implications to human health," he explained. "We do test for that, but we haven’t found it in our water supply."