OCEAN PINES – Posters calling for “Solutions Not Slaughter” and others proclaiming “It’s Their World Too” greeted attendees of an Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors meeting last week.
On Friday a handful of protestors upset about the association’s recent removal of 290 Canada geese shared their views as members of the board entered the Ocean Pines Community Center for a meeting.
“The fact that it was done in secret was appalling,” resident Anne O’Connell said.
On June 29, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed 290 resident Canada geese from Ocean Pines at the request of the Ocean Pines Association (OPA). Association officials issued a press release after the fact advising the public of the removal and reporting that the birds had been humanely euthanized and donated to the Maryland Food Bank.
While members of OPA’s Environment and Natural Assets Advisory Committee had long recommended removal of the geese, many residents objected to what Friday’s protestors referred to as the “wholesale slaughter” of the birds without the community’s knowledge. OPA General Manager John Bailey, aware that the geese were a hot topic, addressed the issue in his report at the start of Friday’s meeting.
“No one wants to euthanize geese…,” he said. “Sometimes things of this world simply do not match up with our desires. Be that as it may we all have a role to play to prevent such an action from becoming necessary again.”
Bailey said the problem with the geese was the amount of excrement they produced.
“While geese can be nice to look at and are tempting to feed they also produce a lot of crap,” he said. “That excrement is not inviting around our amenities and it pollutes the waters of our ponds. Not only does it pollute the waters within the confines of the association’s 3,000-plus acres it adds significantly to the pollution of the creeks, river and bay. Be that as it may we all have a role to play in trying to prevent that negative impact from occurring.”
Bailey said geese were drawn to areas like Ocean Pines either because there was a food source or a safe place to rest. He said the area would not be a food source if people did not feed the geese.
“I know it’s cute and fun to do but it’s not healthy for the geese and it’s not helpful in the prevention of their population growth,” he said.
He said that in order to prevent the Pines from being a safe place for the geese to rest and nest, mitigation efforts needed to be pursued. He said he met on Wednesday with Maryland Geese Control, a company that uses border collies to scare off geese.
“I received their contract proposal this very morning,” he said. “For $625 a week we will be able to begin seeing them on site once a day in a matter of weeks. Once a day service is necessary to be successful in slowly getting the geese to relocate on their own, or well at least with the help of our four-legged friends.”
He added that other methods may also have to be used to control the geese.
“Quite frankly geese are smart critters,” he said. “They adapt.”
He said “out of the box” methods such as drone use could also be explored. He said Ottowa had used a drone to keep geese off its beaches during the summer.
“In the meantime what can you do? Be a part of the solution by being a part of the conversation,” Bailey said.
He said some residents has scheduled a meeting to discuss the issue Aug. 16 and that he’d be attending that meeting. He pointed out however that it was the association that would ultimately coordinate any mitigation efforts.
In the portion of the meeting allotted to public comments, O’Connell told the board she was upset that officials made the decision to remove the geese without the public’s knowledge.
“This should never have been done without community involvement,” she said.
O’Connell said that OPA’s previous efforts to control the population of resident Canada geese had been done halfheartedly and thus hadn’t been successful. She said she appreciated Bailey’s recent exploration of using dogs as a control method but wished that had occurred prior to the “wholesale slaughter” of the birds.
“For many of us we can no longer trust our general manager and our board,” she said. “You’re obviously willing to do things, major things, without letting your resident constituents know.”
Resident Dulce Olexo said she was appalled by the removal of the geese. After learning of what happened she did some research and found Maryland Geese Control. She said hoped OPA would use the company going forward.
“He told me he has a 100 percent success rate…,” Olexo said. “He just moves them along so they go and nest somewhere else. I think this is one of the best options we should look into for now.”