Village employs decoys for goose mitigation

EAGLE1

An eagle decoy flown over Harbor Island Park intended to frighten geese into leaving the area. So far, the village has purchased two of the kites, and they are being operated by the Parks Department. Photo/Ashley Helms

By ASHLEY HELMS
Gearing up for another phase of initiatives aimed at minimizing the local Canada goose population, the Village of Mamaroneck has introduced a new method of driving the birds from Harbor Island Park.

A decoy in the shape of a predatory bald eagle has been set up in the park in order to condition the geese to stay away from the area. The lightweight kites were purchased by the village and are operated by the Parks Department, according to Assistant Village Manager Daniel Sarnoff.

The decoys took to the air for the first time on Sept. 20 and have been successful so far, Sarnoff said, at a cost between $60 and $70 per kite. Two eagle kites have been purchased so far for Harbor Island Park.

“Imagine a paper mache eagle; it’s not a big canvass kite and it’s not a plastic kite,” Sarnoff said.

As the eagle decoy flies overhead, a speaker and iPod system is set up to play the predatory bird’s sounds in order to scare the geese. One was located at the large stone building toward the back of the park where garbage is kept.

“It looks like a three-dimensional model of an eagle,”
Sarnoff said.

The kites are the latest in a series of ideas the village has put forth in order to reduce the goose population—and their subsequent waste—in places like Columbus, Harbor Island and Warren Avenue parks.

Over the summer, village management focused on oiling the goose eggs, a process that prevents oxygen exchange from occurring within the eggs before they are incubated, which stops their development and prevents them from hatching.

Another initiative includes employing certified dogs to chase the geese away, with contracts costing between $14,000 and $16,000 for the year, according to Sarnoff. The village also utilizes a Rake-O-Vac, a machine the village purchased last year for $30,000 that is capable of collecting goose droppings, in order to keep the parks clean.

Goose droppings were the crux of the issue regarding the birds in local parks.

“We’re trying to be very proactive and address this issue from a lot of different angles,” Sarnoff said.

The debate over how to handle the overabundance of geese and their droppings has been a point of contention in the village since the beginning of the year, when a contract with the USDA was signed in order to euthanize the birds. Opponents of the contract felt a lethal approach was inhumane and the Board of Trustees renegotiated its contract in order to pursue non-lethal alternatives.

Though geese usually migrate for the winter, Sarnoff said many of the birds stay put, even during the cold months, and the fall is an important time to focus on all of the available methods of limiting the goose population, with a focus on chasing the geese away rather than killing them.

During the spring, chasing the birds from the parks was not necessary because, if the geese flew away, they wouldn’t nest, which was essential for the success of the USDA oiling project.

Mayor Norman Rosenblum, a Republican, said he supported the USDA agreement to euthanize the geese, but it didn’t have the backing from the trustees.

“I had my own wherewithal to go with the USDA, but the board didn’t support it,” he said.

Harbor Island Park has become home to too many Canada geese, according to village officials. File photo

Harbor Island Park has become home to too many Canada geese, according to village officials. File photo

Geesebusters, a waterfowl management strategies company led by Robert Guardagna, proposed a similar strategy wherein a model eagle made out of lightweight fabric would be flown in the local parks accompanied by a whistle sound to frighten the birds into leaving. Though the eagle-shaped kites now flying over Harbor Island Park represent the company’s concept, the village decided to forgo hiring Geesebusters.

“We could do [the kites] ourselves without contracting for them,” Sarnoff said.

Administering the kites through the village Parks Department was the most economically sound decision, Rosenblum said, because Guardagna wanted much more for his services than the kites cost.

“He wanted $3,000 or $6,000; it was a matter of reality and basics,” Rosenblum said.

The mayor said he isn’t sure how successful the non-lethal measures will be, but that something has to be done. In some areas, the mayor said the geese waste is “like a carpet” on the grass and that you can’t walk anywhere without stepping in it.

“Some people say it’s a little better, some say it’s back to where it was,” Rosenblum said. “You have to keep trying.”

Contact: ashley@hometwn.com

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About Ashley Helms

Ashley Helms has been covering Eastchester and Tuckahoe for The Town Report since 2012 and has recently added Rye to her coverage area. Before joining Home Town Media Group, Ashley freelanced for the Daily Voice in Fairfield County, Conn., and was a social media intern at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic. She graduated from the State University of New York at Purchase with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism and gender studies. She currently resides in the Bronx. Reach Ashley at 914-653-1000 x23 or ashley@hometwn.com; follow her on Twitter @townreport.