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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

City Finds Homes for Homeless... Geese

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 3:59 PM

The enemy.
  • The enemy.
Geese ruin everything. In New York, they crash planes. In Portland's urban parks, large populations of formerly pet geese destroy habitat, degrade waterways, and, frankly, shit on the grass a lot.

Many cities have taken the step of staging mass goose killings. NYC, for example, is planning to gas 170,000 geese over the next few years and animal lovers in Bend, Oregon, staged a mourning ceremony for 60 geese who were killed after causing nearly $22,000 worth of environmental damage to local parks.

But in Portland, the city has decided it shall not answer the fowl menace with death. Instead, Portland Parks employees and the Audubon Society are boxing up 100 geese and ducks from Westmoreland Park and shipping them to new homes around the area.

As the Audubon Society's Bob Salinger explains, about a third of the 300 geese and ducks that have overrun Westmoreland Park are domestic breeds that people at one point bought as pets and then abandoned in the park. The park is being restored in 2012 to create salmon habitat.

"People get them as pets from feed stores and think they're going to be really cool but then they're actually noisy and messy, so they think they're doing the birds a favor by setting them free," says Salinger. Instead, the birds essentially become homeless. Many can't fly so they don't just link up with flocks of wild birds, instead they just live in growing numbers Portland's park. It's a good life for a goose, though—both domestic and wild birds feast on bread and human foods neighbors bring to the park.

"These birds get addicted to junk food just like we do," says Salinger. "If you go down to Westmoreland Park, what you'll see is incredibly eroded banks, there's usually soggy bread everywhere and you can't step without stepping in goose poop."

But though the birds are a nuisance, the city decided to find them new homes rather than sending the birds to their deaths.

The Audubon Society put out the call for local farms that could take on the ducks and geese, screened applicants, and found spots for the 100 birds. Next week, a crew will corral the park's former pet geese into boxes and, after they've been looked at by vets, ship 'em out to homes.

"We could have rounded them up and killed them, there's nothing legally preventing us from doing that. But I think that's a really sad ending for these critters people care about," says Salinger.

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