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Archive for Sunday, September 2, 2001

Solutions for controlling Canada geese may be provocative

September 2, 2001

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It's tough to find places to hunt geese.

The Canada goose problem in the Twin Cities is best summed up by the cartoon character Pogo, who said, "We have met the enemy, and they is us."

Many of us who live in cities or suburbs don't like geese. We don't like their droppings on golf courses or walking paths. We unaffectionately call them "flying carp."

Yet the onward march of urban sprawl is making it more difficult for hunters, who play an important role in controlling goose populations, to find places to hunt.

This past week, I've been watching the construction of a new golf course near a cornfield where I hunted last fall. Several years ago, I witnessed a housing development pop up overnight on a former goose-hunting field in Savage.

Sean Coffey is an Oakdale policeman who operates a small goose-hunting guide service in the suburbs. When the state's early goose season opened Saturday, Coffey was without six fields he has hunted in the past.

"For the early metro season, finding fields to hunt is getting tough," Coffey said. "I lost a field in Woodbury to a church and a school. I've lost others to housing developments. When you do get a field, the people in the new development next door complain to the farmer they don't want hunting."

Urban growth is an expected byproduct of a growing economy, and I'm not suggesting we limit growth just so goose hunters have a place to put their decoys. But let's not fool ourselves. If we build new homes where farm fields once existed, then geese will soil our sidewalks.

If we build golf courses where deer once grazed, we should expect ornamental shrubs to be chewed to the ground.

A few years ago, I salvaged a road-killed whitetail buck outside of Stillwater after a Buick hit it. It was crossing from a cornfield to a golf course. The cornfield is gone, replaced by new townhouses. But the deer are still around, and the traffic at that intersection is about to double.

I wonder if the folks moving into those townhouses have good car insurance.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working on solutions. The federal agency is expected to complete an Environmental Impact Statement in December that will offer solutions to controlling Canada geese. The report may be provocative.

Extended hunting seasons, perhaps even a spring hunt, have been proposed. Some states have suggested a so-called "conservation order," similar to a snow-goose conservation hunt, that would allow hunters to pursue Canada geese during the spring migration, a suggestion that has been verboten to date.

In the end, the solutions get tougher.

"We have to be good stewards and managers of these animals," Wilds said. "Otherwise, politicians will take the issue into their hands and pass laws. We want the goose to be loved and admired, not hated or despised."

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