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Health, Science & Environment

Feeding Canada Geese won’t fly in Mentor. It’s now a misdemeanor offense

A flock of geese bow their heads in the grass in search of food at Garfield Park.
Kendall Crawford
/
The Ohio Newsroom
A flock of geese bow their heads in the grass in search of food at Garfield Park.

The geese greatly outnumbered people in Garfield Park on a sunny Thursday in Mentor. They swam, sat in front of park benches, strolled on the sidewalks. A car honked at one blocking the road. The goose honked back.

Each leaves a trail of droppings behind them, or as the city of Mentor’s communications officer, Ante Logarusic, likes to call them, “landmines.” Canada Geese drop more than a pound of poop a day.

The northeast Ohio city is fed up. It officially deemed the Canada Goose a nuisance – anyone breaking bread for them is now breaking the law. It’s a fourth degree misdemeanor to feed the geese. Perpetrators could be hit with an up to $250 fine or up to 30 days in jail.

“I think if you live in northeast Ohio for any length of time, the geese become a burden,” he said.

Garfield Park has long had signs warning parkgoers not to feed the waterfowl.
Kendall Crawford
/
The Ohio Newsroom
Garfield Park has long had signs warning parkgoers not to feed the waterfowl.

Canada Geese have begun embarking on their annual migratory trip out of Ohio. But, some will stick around the state, thanks, in part, to people feeding geese. Mentor hopes its new punitive approach can stifle their incentive to stay.

A crappy situation

Although Logarusic said side-stepping droppings is very annoying, it’s not the only nuisance the waterfowl bring. Their waste can pollute ponds and harm other wildlife.

“It helps the algal blooms, and then that depletes oxygen in the water so fish die,” said Jamie Jubeck, a natural resource specialist in Mentor. “It flows into Lake Erie, which is a source of water for a lot of people and it can harm that.”

During nesting season, the birds can get territorial, sometimes even charging at people. Mentor area resident Nick Bieber said he’s never been attacked, but he has been bullied into leaving his spot in the park to make way for the flock.

“As soon as I see one coming towards me, I'm turning around and walking the other way,” Bieber said.

Two Canada geese stand in a park amid fallen leaves.
Kendall Crawford
/
The Ohio Newsroom
Garfield Park in Mentor is overrun by geese. Parkgoers have long been encouraged not to feed them. Now, it's the law.

A shared struggle

Mentor is the only Ohio municipality to institute a city-wide ban on feeding the geese, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. But, Ohio neighborhoods have long been grappling with how to coexist with the more than 100,000 geese that call the state home.

Laurie Brown, wildlife research technician with the ODNR, handles a part of northeast Ohio’s human-wildlife conflict calls. Brown said the waterfowl are a huge bulk of the complaints.

“One of the things I ask is, ‘Are you feeding them or is a neighbor feeding them?’” she said. “Feeding geese is not good. They need to eat things that are out in nature and that are natural for them.”

Canada Geese are a federally protected species – so there are limits on hunting them. Back in the 1950s, goose populations got dangerously low. The state built refuges to help bring them back.

Now, Brown said it’s flipped on its head. They’re looking for ways to manage their presence, without harming them.

Geese parade through a parking lot in Garfield Park. Many cars arriving and leaving the park get impatient at their crossings.
Kendall Crawford
/
The Ohio Newsroom
Geese parade through a parking lot in Garfield Park. Many cars arriving and leaving the park get impatient at their crossings.

Goose-busting

Punitive fines aren’t the only option for geese management. Marci Hower, owner of Ohio Geese Control, said there are many ways to harass the geese into leaving.

“We will use Border Collies, laser pointers at night, maybe remote control boats in the water,” Hower said.

Cities like Dayton and Chillicothe have invested in hiring companies like Hower’s to bring dogs to disturb the gaggles. A park in Central Ohio’s Mount Vernon has even used the loud booms of a cannon to scare the birds.

Mentor park officials have used some of these harassment techniques, like laser pointers, before. But Logarusic said if people keep giving their food scraps, it doesn’t matter: the geese will keep coming back. That’s why they made the law.

A goose stands on alert. Behind it two geese have their beaks pressed to the grass in search of food.
Kendall Crawford
/
The Ohio Newsroom
The geese in Mentor park are used to having humans around. They crowd around park benches and picnic tables.

“Police don't want to walk around handing out tickets to people feeding the geese. Really it’s something for people to be cognizant of the fact you’re putting nature out of balance, instead of assisting these geese on the journey to wherever they are supposed to be going,” he said.

Across the lake, a couple throws a few bits of bread into the water and the geese quickly race to scarf it down. No one’s charged, this time. But, that might not always be the case, if Mentor residents keep running afoul of the law.

Correction: A previous version of this article misspelt the name of Nick Bieber.

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Health, Science & Environment The Ohio NewsroomCanadian GeeseOhio News
Kendall Crawford is a reporter for The Ohio Newsroom. She most recently worked as a reporter at Iowa Public Radio.