Mary Kate Wirfel/News Staff

Goose Problem Barked at

By Mary Kate Wirfel

It’s not just students who live on the Hilbert campus. Occasionally, there is an overpopulation of Canada geese. Some might find the large birds beautiful, but they have caused havoc among the residents and commuters alike. Geese have chased people, hissing at them and causing traffic backups for commuters who don’t want to be late for class, said Hilbert College Superintendent of Physical Plant Operations Gary Dillsworth.

He said that while people may appreciate wildlife in general, the reality of dealing with wild animals, and their droppings and rude behavior, is less pleasant.

But an initiative on campus using trained dogs has seen some success, with evidence suggesting fewer of the troublesome birds hanging around.

Who else has had the experience of having to look at the ground while walking, in order to get to class with clean shoes? Dillsworth said the birds – which can be aggressive and territorial – can uncomfortably close to people, and can sometimes tie up vehicle and foot traffic.

But the problem of geese on campus is not as bad as it used to be, Dillsworth said.

In the past the geese problem has been worse than it is today.  As a Franciscan college and keeping the Franciscan values. St Francis himself loved animals and Hilbert would never do anything to harm them. In the past they have tried tactics but the geese get used to them after a while and continue to stay. Some of the tactics were ribbons around the pond, tape in the trees around and in the pond, plastic owls in the trees, and even inflatable alligators in the pond. The alligators worked for a long time, Dillsworth said,  until one day the Dean of students Jim Sterm spotted a goose sitting on top of the alligator and floating around like it didn’t even care.

Finally, a tactic that works, he said, involved hiring Craig Cygan, who owns a company called Borders on Patrol. Cygan uses two Border collies, highly intelligent dogs that use their instincts and training to herd animals – to scare the geese away. Cygan also uses remote control boats to harass the geese as they float on the water.

Dillsworth said it’s more effective than having staff members chase geese around on golf carts. Cygan and his dogs come on average twice per year, at random times, so the geese don’t get accustomed to them.

Ultimately, Dillsworth said, the goal is to allow six or seven geese to live around campus at once. Any larger population than that, and the nuisance will return.

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