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Geese leaving mess behind at former fort

November 15, 2005|by KAREN HANNA

CASCADE

karenh@herald-mail.com

According to Richard D. Rook, the executive director of PenMar Development Corp., the average goose can leave 1 1/2 pounds of waste in its wake.

Multiply that by a gaggle, and it's a mess, he said.

The board of directors voted at its meeting Monday morning to authorize Rook to negotiate with a goose-removal company to chase the birds from the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base. According to Rook, the company's use of dogs and remote-controlled boats is the best technique "short of a shotgun."

Dan Laxton, who owns Gone In A Zip goose solutions, said he plans to demonstrate his services today. He said in a phone interview Monday afternoon he believes the cost of chasing the geese from the 630-acre property, which is leased by PenMar, could cost about $5,200 a year.

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The Walkersville, Md., man said he started his business about two years ago with one border collie named Zip, and he has added a rescued border collie named Ivy. He also uses remote-controlled boats, hip waders and a kayak to flush geese from the water.

The methods amount to "humane goose harassment," Laxton said.

"Basically, what the dogs do is they try to herd the geese into a tight ball and move them toward me. Well, the geese see this as something they don't want to do," Laxton said.

Eventually, the geese disperse to other areas, he said.

Lakes at the base routinely are polluted by the birds, and by July 4 each year, bacteria levels often have been unsafe for swimmers, base environmental coordinator William D. Hofmann told the board.

"We've always had a duck problem. As the geese have arrived, the ducks left, so now we have a goose problem," Hofmann said.

It is not uncommon to count between 500 and 800 birds in one place at one time, he said.

The problem is worst during migration seasons, Rook said. Flying birds even have knocked out power lines, he said.

"It does create a lot of mess, and they create a lot of damage," Rook said.

Hofmann said he believed the goose-harrassment approach might work.

"The more you keep them moving, and they don't rest, they'll leave," he said.

Laxton said he has contracts with two customers to chase geese. He said he and the dogs return to the areas where they work at least once a week, and more often if necessary.

The dogs never seem to tire, Laxton said.

"They're border collies. They make the Energizer bunny look pathetic and weak," Laxton said.

He said he worked his dogs earlier this year at a Carroll County, Md., park geese had completely defoliated.

"It was pretty much an environmental disaster, and now this summer, they had grass," he said.

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