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Saturday, May 21, 2022

Parks and Recreation explains goose policy at Weed Park

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Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Over the last several weeks, Muscatine residents have expressed concerns about large waterfowl observed on or around Park Avenue as well as the fact that the pond at Weed Park, where geese often congregate, has frozen over. In response to these concerns, Muscatine Parks and Recreation Director Rich Klimes issued the following statement.


“In 2018, the City of Muscatine consulted with the Muscatine County Conservation and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to implement a geese management program at the lagoon at Weed Park. In the years leading up to the winter of 2018, numerous comments and concerns were made about the high geese population occurring in Weed Park and the surrounding areas, and the mess that was being left on the trail and surrounding areas of the park.

Attached are documents that were received by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, in helping to put together a geese management program. There were several options given to help reduce the geese population including the following:

‘Stop all recreational feeding. While some segments of the public find this activity entertaining, geese do not need handouts and this activity encourages geese to congregate in large numbers for long periods of time in specific areas, which usually results in habitat degradation and can increase the chances of disease outbreaks. This activity also habituates geese to people, which may make them more aggressive, particularly when nesting.

Modify habitats to make them less attractive to geese. Canada geese are particularly fond of large open grasslands adjacent to water, an environment that is also very attractive to people (e.g., parks, golf course, athletic fields, etc.). Modifying grassy feeding or loafing sites, or access to those sites, through vegetation management can substantially discourage goose use. Minimizing mowed areas, particularly next to water, and/or establishing barriers, using fences or dense natural vegetation, will discourage goose use, particularly when the geese are flightless.

Harass geese pairs prior to nesting. Paired Canada geese should be discouraged from sites of concern prior to nesting activity. Hazing tactics should consist of propane cannons, pyrotechnics, dogs and/or dog silhouettes, etc. Constant vigilance is required to ensure that breeding pairs of geese relocate to other sites. The idea is to reduce the problem before it begins.

Eliminate or minimize attractive nesting sites. All goose nesting structures should be removed from areas where geese are over-abundant as well as nearby wetlands that are within walking distance of such areas. Island construction in urban wetlands should be discouraged as islands have been known to have densities as high as 100 goose nests per acre where geese have high survival rates.

Allow urban wetlands to freeze over during the winter. Geese need a source of water during the winter for drinking and feather maintenance and will concentrate on even small ponds that maintain open water areas with aeration systems or fountains. Such practices should be discouraged, particularly where concentrations of geese may pose a threat to human health or safety (e.g., near airports, on drinking water reservoirs, etc.).

Encourage hunting within city limits. Many towns and cities in Iowa contain crop fields within their incorporated boundaries. These crop fields, in conjunction with the wetlands or rivers in these urban settings, provide all the necessary habitat elements for geese during the fall and winter. As a result, urban geese infrequently leave the safety of the city limits to feed, loaf or roost and have much higher survival rates than geese in rural environments. Canada goose seasons in Iowa are usually sufficiently long to expose geese to a substantial rate of harvest and subsequently reduce their chances of survival. Because adult Canada geese have few natural predators, hunting is the primary cause of mortality for these birds and regulated harvest is fundamental to controlling these populations.

Discourage goose use of specific areas by hazing or installing barriers. When geese have young (May and June) or are flightless (June and July), they can often be discouraged from frequenting specific areas by employing standard scare practices (propane cannons, cracker shells, bird scare tape, scarecrows, etc.) or by blocking their access to such areas using permanent or temporary fences (chicken wire, electric, etc.). These practices often work best if the geese are provided with an alternative site at which to feed or loaf. Hazing or harassment can be used to chase birds from a specific area as long as the birds are not touched or handled in any manner. Birds on nests cannot be harassed or the nests disturbed without appropriate federal and/or state permits.’

The City considered all of the options listed above, and felt that allowing the urban wetlands to freeze over during the winter months was the best option for the lagoon at Weed Park. The aerators were removed from the lagoon during the winter of 2017-2018, and have not been put in since then. Staff feels like the program has been a success, as we have seen a reduction in the feces on the trail system near the lagoon, and the surrounding areas in the park. Staff is open to further discussion on how to best manage the geese population at the lagoon, with the overall goal of providing safety for all in Weed Park.”


Additional documents about goose management in Iowa follow below.

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