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Thursday, October 30, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 36.0° F  Overcast
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Madison takes another gander at goose control in Warner Park
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Long-term solutions to the geese problem could cost between $500 and $800 per week during certain months of the year.
Long-term solutions to the geese problem could cost between $500 and $800 per week during certain months of the year.

In May, Canada geese at Warner Park were granted a reprieve, at least temporarily, from a plan to kill about 100 of them to improve airport safety. In a meeting on Tuesday night, the topic was again thrown open for discussion and debate.

And during this meeting, at the Warner Park Recreation Center, it was made clear that geese aren't just a potential hazard to air traffic. They are seen by many as a nuisance.

"We've got people who are complaining about getting a shelter and having 120 geese around it pooping all over the place," said Russ Hefty, the city's conservation park supervisor.

The Parks Division has said the plan to kill about 100 Warner Park geese, approved by the Parks Division in April, was initiated by officials at the Dane County Regional Airport, due to the risk posed to planes by flying geese. But a public outcry prompted the Park Commission to sideline the plan, pending further review.

That process is now underway. Tuesday's meeting was one of several that will take place this summer to inform residents of the issues under review.

Hefty, who expects to complete his report on the matter by Sept. 1, has been charged with examining geese populations in the city's parks. In Warner Park, he's counted at least 143 Canada geese. This number could skyrocket this fall when geese from Canada head south for winter.

One way to reduce the numbers of geese at Warner is to have them rounded up and killed, something attendees at the meeting were entirely against. This is the strategy employed for years by the Twin Cities and, more recently, by the city of Milwaukee.

The city has already begun some alternative approaches. In April and May, after receiving the appropriate state and federal approval, city employees "oiled" at least 96 geese eggs, which Hefty explained preventing them from receiving the necessary oxygen to hatch.

One option suggested at the meeting was to sterilize the ganders, as some other communities have done.

"The difficulty with reproductive control [is] that such a high percentage of the population has to be treated in order to see any affect on the population," said Scott Craven, a wildlife ecology professor at UW-Madison and an expert on urban geese control. "And it's fabulously expensive."

So are strategies like egg oiling. Hefty had contractors estimate that long-term solutions to the geese problem could cost between $500 and $800 per week during certain months of the year.

In the end, as one attendee pointed out, "it will all come down to money" -- whether the city wants to spend tens of thousands of dollars in the tight budget years ahead to control the population of geese or, take the cheaper way out and have the geese killed, packaged and served at food pantries.

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