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Ways to enjoy Cosby Lake geese during annual molt this month and next

By Mary Lou Simms

Guest Editorial

Please remind your readers to be patient with Cosby Lake geese this month.

It’s the annual molt (June through mid-July), when every goose in Alabama (and the nation) is grounded until new wing feathers grow in.

That’s why you may see 100 geese — and the accompanying accumulations of poop — at a city park or pond where there are normally only a few. No one can fly!

Relax. It’s only temporary. The geese will be gone in a few weeks, as soon as their new feathers are in, but most people don’t know that.

I also investigated the USDA’s Wildlife Services — and its unconscionable management of the nation’s molting geese population — under a national reporting grant.

The results, published by Tribune News Service, indicate that taxpayers are subsidizing a $126.5 million program which exterminates 5 million wild animals annually,  including thousands of molting geese in highly profitable, often controversial  roundups.

The poop is also manageable. There are about a dozen ways to efficiently manage clean-up (and even have fun doing it). It could be a company temporarily hired for that purpose or a corps of volunteers. Have park maintenance crews spray the sidewalks daily. The rain also washes it away.

Goose poop — made up mostly of grass — is basically harmless. Wildlife officials like you to think that it carries disease but The Centers for Disease Control have no record of a Canada goose ever having transmitted a disease to a human. Canada geese are among the cleanest creatures on the planet.

I should know. I’ve been studying geese for more than a decade and they’re so clean, I sometimes have to remind myself to wash my hands after observing their antics for several hours.

Picking up goose droppings also makes a fantastic service project for minor offenders — or a credit project for high school/college students, seniors and animal advocates with a small payment of free lunch or other discount. The transformation is remarkable. Even people who don’t like geese begin to look at them differently when the grounds are clean.

Personally, I prefer to see students clean up after the geese. During my 10-year study, I became aware of a disturbing disconnect between children and wildlife. Not infrequently, I saw students bully, chase or harass adult geese and goslings. Once I saw a youngster chase a gosling until it was near death from exhaustion. I stopped the chase and explained that such actions could kill the baby. Clean-up also gets students away from video games and into the outdoors.

 These are also not migratory geese; the migratory geese are molting at their breeding grounds in Canada. Resident geese were born in the U.S. (after having initially been shipped here for hunting).  They don’t migrate to Canada because they were never taught the flight patterns.

Meanwhile, other geese in Alabama are enjoying the molt — and all the attention from people they can get. The geese at nearby Star and Howard lakes in Hoover, as well as Aldridge Gardens, are treated like royalty. The geese at the botanical gardens are also treated to pesticide-free grass, which they adore. We feed them mostly grains, cracked corn and the like. They adore bread but I keep it to a minimum and give them only bread rich in grains. Remember, grass is their mainstay. Let them fill up on it.

Enjoy the Cosby geese this month and next.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Have students post signs warning visitors not to chase or harass geese.
  • Set up feeding stations and sell cracked corn or grains for 25 cents a cup. Everyone loves treats, including geese. Then listen to them “ooh” and “aah” as they devour the treats. Remember that geese eat mostly grass, so don’t let them fill up on bread or grains.
  • Indulge in a little wildlife watching. No one is more entertaining than the Canada goose. Geese live an ongoing soap opera, often engaging in playful banter, talking back and forth to you — and each other.

Geese are territorial, often chasing each other. Anyone outside the family is fair game.  Except humans, of course, whom they seem to adore.

Geese also love the sound of the human voice. Whisper to them or talk in a soft, high-pitched voice. They’re wonderful listeners.

Let geese heal you mentally.  After years of study, I concluded that the Canada goose is one of the most joyous creature I’ve ever known. There seems to be a natural effervescence, an inborn enthusiasm that carries over from generation to generation. I’ve never seen anything like it. According to the goose mantra, every moment is to be cherished, savored, revered. They may experience sadness over the loss of a mate or gosling but long-term depression seems to have no place in their realm. Humans might benefit from observing this inspirational behavior.

The molt is also a wonderful time for a community to use the presence of geese to teach youngsters respect and compassion for those birds that share our communities and for many of us of us, our lives. And remember:  they’ll be gone before you know it.

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