In the battle of man versus goose, things are not looking so hot for man lately.
For years, Peninsula cities have waged war on the Canada geese that call their waterfront parks home — or more specifically, on their sanitation habits. The feathered frienemies, many of which have stopped migrating entirely and instead moved permanently to the suburbs, aren’t particularly conscientious about where they leave their droppings.
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“What goes in comes out a few minutes later and they don’t care where they are,” explains an obviously frustrated Kevin Miller, chief of Foster City’s Rec and Park department and commander of his city’s battle against the birds.
“They go everywhere,” he said. “On playing fields. On sidewalks. On park benches. On picnic tables.”
Many weapons have been deployed against the poop, but few have been very effective. And with budget cuts, there’s less money than ever to try to combat the mess.
Foster City’s greatest pride — its intricate network of lagoons — has made it particularly vulnerable to the onslaught of avian feces. The poop became such a problem that the city hired a crew of border collies to run around the parks and scare off the birds. However, after seven years of seeing some success with this method, the city had to ax the dogs’ $35,000 annual contract, and is now asking its staff to try to scare off the geese whenever it can, Miller said.
The Port of Redwood City has just employed another tactic — purchasing decoy coyotes and moving them around their grassy areas in hopes the geese will skedaddle once they see the predators. But port executive director Mike Giari said it has not exactly solved the problem.
“It’s hard to see a direct cause and effect but we think it’s a little bit better,” he said, optimistically.
They haven’t exhausted their options.
“There’s other products on the market we might try, like there’s a powder that can be spread around that smells like animal urine,” he said.
With the limited success of deterrents, several cities have tried a form of avian birth control involving egg addling, in which the goose eggs are shaken, rotated and painted with oil, so they never hatch. But it turns out that goose nests aren’t easy to find, and if they’re on a protected wetland, it’s illegal to touch their eggs.
Redwood City parks chief Chris Beth said they’ve managed to solve their biggest poop problem, which was when the geese would take to playing fields.
“We used to have kids standing and playing and falling in goose poop,” he said.
But they’ve recently replaced the two playing fields in waterfront Redwood Shores with synthetic fields — which it turns out that geese snub. Since then, things have been a little better.
“I’m not saying you won’t find one poop on there now — you will — but it’s so much better,” he said.