Goose hunters ruffle feathers

September 15, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Pennsylvania's early hunting season for Canada geese is ruffling some feathers in Franklin County.

Residents of one north-end neighborhood in Chambersburg, Pa., said it sounded like a war zone in the mornings and evenings - especially during the first week of the season, which began Sept. 1 - when hunters shot at the flock of big birds that were feeding on the leftovers of a nearby harvested corn field.

"We heard a lot of shooting. It sounded like an artillery," said David Drawbaugh, who lives in the 400-block of Ohio Avenue.

But for Drawbaugh, a hunter himself, the decision to file a complaint with the state Game Commission didn't come until last Monday morning when, upon letting his dog outside, he discovered a dead Canada goose just steps from his home in the back yard.


It had been shot and left by the hunter, which is illegal, Drawbaugh said.

"They're shooting for the thrill of it," he said, adding that other dead geese were found in the field and on the train tracks that run atop a small hill on the edge of the neighborhood.

Most of the geese that once flew over the neighborhood to the corn field from a nearby creek that runs between Wilson College and Penn Hall retirement community are gone now, either killed or scared away by the hunters, residents said.

"I haven't heard the geese going overhead in the mornings or evenings since last week," said Penn Hall resident Dorothy Thomas, who was walking her dog alongside the creek Monday afternoon.

College students and Penn Hall residents used to feed the geese around the creek, she said. Some were tame enough that they'd take bread right out of people's hands.

"What sport is there in walking up to a tame goose and shooting it?" Drawbaugh asked.

But game officials say there is an overpopulation of residential Canada geese, so-called because they don't migrate anymore, and the best way to reduce it is to allow hunting.

"We're certainly not out to eliminate the residential Canada goose. We just want to have some reasonable control," said Don Garner, information and education supervisor at the state Game Commission's regional office in Huntingdon, Pa.

Pennsylvania goose hunters are allowed to kill three per day until Sept. 25. West Virginia hunters had the same quota in their season lasting from Sept. 4 to 13. Maryland hunters are allowed to bag five geese a day in the season lasting to Sept. 25.

At one time, Canada geese simply used Pennsylvania and surrounding states as a stopover along their migratory route, Garner said.

But for the last several years, some geese have stopped - and stayed - causing an explosion in population and problems for farmers, golf course owners and municipalities.

"They have all the food, water and cover they need right here," said George Timko, natural resources technician with the Department of Natural Resources in Clear Spring, Md.

The geese are attracted to the man-made lakes and ponds found in parks and on golf courses, he said.

The birds are known to trample crops and grass and leave a mess behind, Timko said. They can also get aggressive toward people during the nesting season, he added.

A few years ago, Pennsylvania game officials trapped thousands of geese and transferred them to states like Alabama, Arkansas and Georgia, where the goose population was small, Garner said.

But that expensive measure has since been abandoned since those states now have enough geese of their own.

"Now you can't get anybody to take them," Garner said.

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