Ocean Pines General Manager Defends Geese Decision

Ocean Pines General Manager Defends Geese Decision
File photo by Charlene Sharpe

OCEAN PINES – Ocean Pines Association officials have released additional information defending their decision to euthanize close to 300 Canada geese.

Nearly two weeks after the association had the U.S. Department of Agriculture catch and euthanize 290 geese in the community, General Manager John Bailey released a statement outlining the history of the association’s goose problem.

“As with everything, there is always more to any topic,” he said. “The goose issue at Ocean Pines is but one example. A little history helps shed light on what unfortunately led to the recent removal of most of the geese population.”

According to Bailey, in the fall of 2014 the association’s Environmental and Natural Assets Advisory Committee presented a three-pronged approach to mitigating the environmental damage being caused by non-migratory Canada geese. He said the committee recommended three non-lethal control measures — a no-mow area and the installation of monofilament lines to block the birds’ easy water access, an agreement with USDA to remove the birds’ nests and application of the product “Flight Control” to land near the South Gate pond.

The board approved the plan and in 2015 the advisory committee shared the results of the initiatives. The committee reported that the monofilament line was ineffective and in some cases had been cut by community members. The no-mow area, however, did reportedly deter the geese from entering the water but was a cause for concern from community members who said it didn’t look good. The committee reported the goose egg oiling had also resulted in a decrease in the number of birds hatched at the North Gate pond. The committee found that applying “Flight Control” to the grass helped keep geese from grazing but was expensive and had to be reapplied after each rain.

“Conclusion: all of these actions will help slow down growth of the goose population, however the resident Canada goose problem remains,” the committee’s report read. “The domestic goose flock increased by five and is not good for the pond environment. Health and safety hazards, fish kills, algae blooms are all major concerns.”

Bailey said that by March of 2016, the board had rescinded the three-pronged approach.

“The non-lethal measures were directed to be abandoned,” he said. “Fast forward two years and we have the resulting growth of the goose population to over 300, with future growth unmitigated.”

He said the Maryland Department of Natural Resources did not permit the relocation of Canada geese. He said the association had contracted with USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Wildlife Services, the same agency other entities used, to remove the geese. He said association staff did not participate in the removal.

“Wildlife Services is made up of people who care greatly about the environment, and they are not just going to capture and euthanize anything unless they understand it to be an unfortunate but viable part of a mitigation effort,” Bailey said. “No one gets any joy or comfort from having to take such mitigating actions. The association will continue to try to abate the problems associated with geese, particularly its population growth, by as many means as we can, and we would much prefer that other options be successful. Unfortunately, history isn’t very promising—however, just as science continues to shed light on all subjects – maybe it will provide us a means by which we can avoid more difficult decisions in the future.”

Marty Clarke, a member of the association’s Environmental and Natural Assets Advisory Committee, said that while the issue of goose removal has sparked concern among some community members in the past, he’s heard primarily positive feedback from residents in recent weeks.

“The feedback I’m getting is 49 to 1 in support of Ocean Pines taking care of the environmental problems caused by the geese,” he said. “It was only a big deal (the last time) because a small group of people thought birds were more important than health. Nobody wants to kill an animal.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.