Border Collies Helping To Reduce OP Geese Population

OCEAN PINES – Ocean Pines Association officials have employed border collies in an effort to keep Canada geese away.

In early October, the association contracted with Maryland Geese Control, which prides itself for providing a “safe and environmentally friendly” way to control nuisance geese. The company uses highly trained border collies to harass the geese, encouraging them to leave the area.

“The number of geese seems to be lower,” General Manager John Bailey told the board of directors at a recent meeting. “A couple weeks ago, we had over 300, this past week the average was 100-plus. Whether that was due to the border collie program who knows.”

In late June, the association contracted with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services for the removal of resident geese.  The USDA proceeded to remove 290 resident Canada geese that were then euthanized and donated to the Maryland Food Bank. The decision to have the geese removed, which came as a surprise to residents, resulted in an uproar from the community. Though association officials cited the environmental damage caused by the non-migratory geese, many residents decried the decision to have them euthanized, calling it a “wholesale slaughter.”

In the ensuing weeks, at the suggestion of residents, the association began working with Maryland Geese Control. Bailey said the company and its dogs started making visits to the Pines Oct. 9.

“They do the north gate pond, the south gate pond, they take a look at the canals and they also explore the golf course,” he said. “They have been consistently inconsistent in the timing which is the key to this process working.”

Mike Kitchen of Maryland Geese Control, which is based in Burtonsville, said he was visiting Ocean Pines five days a week. Though he typically visits a community he’s patrolling every day, because of the commute he has limited his Ocean Pines visits. Nevertheless, he says his dogs are making an impact.

“We’ve only been at it three weeks and we’re down to 50 to 100 geese each visit,” he said, adding that when he’d started patrolling the community there were at least 300 of the birds. “Now it’s getting to the point they know us.”

Kitchen said word of mouth had already connected him with several other new clients on the Eastern Shore and that he’d be able to make more frequent visits in the future.

“We’re trying to build up a route in the area,” he said. “That’s how we’re effective.”

According to Bailey the association is paying $625 a week for the service and the company spends about 20 hours a week in Ocean Pines.

“This contract is not an annual contract,” he said. “We intend to pursue it for six to seven, eight weeks this fall.”

He said the association had budgeted $15,000 for wildlife control and had used just $5,000 of that funding prior to contracting with Maryland Geese Control. He says the association will evaluate the border collie program after this fall’s trial.

“We’ll use it for a few more weeks this fall and have some more numbers next month,” he said.

In addition, staff is exploring the purchase of a waste collection attachment. Bailey described it as a tow-behind piece of equipment that sweeps up fecal waste from geese and other sources.

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.