Park district tries strobes to keep geese away

Park district tries strobes to keep geese away

URBANA — Those blinking lanterns in Crystal Lake aren't runway lights to help geese land in the water.

Far from it.

The flashing lights are designed to keep the ever-growing goose population out of the lake.

Urbana Park District officials placed 14 solar-powered blinking lights in the lake late last month in hopes of deterring Canada geese from using the lake and harming its water quality and the surrounding park land.

Last fall, said park district project manager Derek Liebert, as many as 90 Canada geese were making the north Urbana park their home. Even greater numbers had been observed in spring and summer months, he said.

"The geese graze heavily on turf and shoreline areas and contribute to erosion and to poor vegetation establishment," Liebert said. "Significant accumulation of geese droppings detracts from popular activities such as picnicking, fishing, boating and walking on trails. And fecal contamination has begun to observably affect Crystal Lake's water quality."

Last summer the lake began to show the effects of the increase in the number of geese.

"It potentially could affect the fish population over time. Right now we're most concerned about the high nutrient levels in the water," Liebert said. "We sort of had a record year in terms of duckweed this last year. That was a real indicator for us because we had never had the sort of challenges with duckweed before."

Furthermore, there have been increased complaints from park users, he said.

It's unclear for now whether the flashing lights are bothering the geese.

"We actually put them in just as the lake was freezing so the geese were already moving out. The real test will be this spring when they come back and the water is open," Liebert said. "Historically, we have a few geese, even in the winter, if there are some open spots. But they had all flushed off by the time we started putting the lights in place."

The lights, which cost the park district about $4,000, don't harm the birds, according to Liebert.

"It disturbs their sleeping pattern. The folks who developed this approach tell me that it sort of mimics the flash of a predator's eyes and causes them enough distress that they move out. They tell us that geese sleep in the water so that having these in the water is a deterrent of sorts," he said. "I found one place where they didn't work, but the vast majority of folks who have them were pleased with them."

"It's something we've been looking at for a long time. This is the closest thing we found to a silver bullet. They've been using it at the arboretum (on the south side of the University of Illinois campus) and in a couple places in southwest Champaign with some success. So after visiting with them and doing some background reference checks, we thought it was worth trying."

At the UI, said arboretum director Bill Kruidenier, four lights, installed last spring, have "worked well for us. They've been very successful."

The goose problem developed on the approximately 1-acre pond at the arboretum when invasive plants were cleared from around the water.

"We began replanting with native plants. But before they had a chance to grow up, we have probably 100-plus geese fly in. That's when we began to investigate what we could do to discourage their living there," said Kruidenier.

"We came up with this flashing light thing and all but one couple left, and they had already laid eggs. They did not leave until after the goslings could fly. Once they could fly, the two adults and four goslings took off and they haven't returned."

To be doubly sure, Kruidenier said, UI crews put chicken wire fencing around the ponds.

"They like a clear walking path between the water and the ground so we put up the fencing to discourage them," he said. "That was more of a hedging the bets because of the investment we made in native plants. We just wanted to be extra careful."

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shurstrike wrote on January 08, 2013 at 8:01 am

Excellent!  I saw those lights on the water but had no idea what they were for.  My first thought was some sort of thin ice warning system.

Kudos! to the Urbana Park District for taking a step in the right direction in ridding such a beatiful park of the largest nuisance that exists there - the flying rats.

They're mean.  They're filthy.  They're overpopulated.

Now if we can only work on a program that allows harvesting the birds to feed the needy we'd be on to something.

ROB McCOLLEY wrote on January 11, 2013 at 4:01 am
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Maybe, when it comes down to us or them, the hunting ban will be rescinded.

rsp wrote on January 08, 2013 at 8:01 am

If they work then they need them on North Prospect. I think we could cull the flock some too. There are almost more geese than inhabitants.

urbana1234 wrote on January 08, 2013 at 9:01 am

The geese have clearly marked their territory. I, for one, welcome our new winged overlords.

jdmac44 wrote on January 08, 2013 at 9:01 am

I wish I had asked for something like this to be done when I lived across the street.  Those suckers honked incesantly, day and night, it was nearly like some kind of psychological torture technique.

One thing I did learn with a little research was that another effective tool is concentrate from grapes, there is a substance in grapes that is like pepper spray to geese.  It is actually packaged for use on lawns and used by parks, golf courses, etc.

sae6286 wrote on January 08, 2013 at 9:01 am

I know where the geese from the park went to...they're at Stone Creek in Urbana.  When I drove home yesterday there were probably 200 or more of them on a pond at the golf course.  They are a nuisance! 

chops4u2 wrote on January 08, 2013 at 9:01 am

It would also help if people would quit feeding  them . I live in Timberline Subdivision where we too have a goose problem. I looked out my back porch one day and there was some WOMEN who had stopped her car and was feeding bread to the geese. I ran her off my property. and told her it was ok to feed them as long as she was the one the cleaned up the mess in my yard!

rsp wrote on January 08, 2013 at 10:01 am

Maybe she was thinking about Christmas dinner. Fatten those things up and thin the flock. We could raise a lot of money for some groups in town and help get the population under control. Win win. Maybe not for the geese. 

shurstrike wrote on January 08, 2013 at 11:01 am

Good job running her off.  Maybe it's the same woman who feeds them at Crystal Lake (even thought it's posted "DO NOT FEED THE GEESE") and at the pond in front of Lowe's.

LocalTownie wrote on January 09, 2013 at 12:01 pm

You hit the nail on the head. People should never feed wildlife, it causes too many problems for example making wild animals tame and more vulnerable to humans. Also causes them to become a nuisance. Parks in Florida have signs that instruct people not to feed the aligators and cats - as in panthers. We're going to have a real problem around here if folks start feeding coyotes.

I would have chased the woman off my property too.

pattsi wrote on January 08, 2013 at 4:01 pm

Or maybe if we just get rid of the many retention ponds in the community. This the cause of the domesticated geese in the community There are much more environmentally efficient, effective, and aesthetically pleasing approachs to handling stormwater than retention ponds. And we have enough experts in this community to prove such information how to use "green solutions" for this type of management.  :-)

rsp wrote on January 08, 2013 at 6:01 pm

If they just let the grass grow around them the geese would leave but neighborhood services would have a fit. The geese like the open space and being able to see around. No place for a fox or coyote to hide. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 08, 2013 at 9:01 pm

Plastic decoy hunters with plastic guns, plastic dogs, and plastic camo boats.  Either that, or plastic politicians like Quinn.

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 09, 2013 at 8:01 am

Or real hunters. I would be happy to bag a few geese for you (and myself).

wayward wrote on January 10, 2013 at 10:01 am

Why are hunters allowed to get ducks but not geese?  Seriously -- responsible hunting is a lot more humane than factory farming, and it's also been an effective way to cull excessive population (e.g., deer).

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

They are, I believe. The problem is that you can't exactly hunt safely within city limits.

rsp wrote on January 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

We'll just require muskets. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

That goes against my Second Amendment rights.  Why can't I hunt geese within the city limits with an AR-15 with a 30 round magazine?

rsp wrote on January 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Well, I guess it depends on how you want to "mechanically-separate" your meat. Especially when they just "stand their ground". Personally I think a net would work. 

LocalTownie wrote on January 09, 2013 at 8:01 am

Darn that wildlife for ruining our urban concrete jungle, how dare they! While we're at it lets figure out how to get rid of squirrels, sparrows, and ooh those darn rabbits who keep eating my garden! Darn disgusting animals!

Bozo-Urbana sure didn't do much about the turkeys that roamed the city for a while, chasing little old ladies and children at the bus stop.  Why are they so worried about geese?

Serisously, if Urbana really wants to improve the water quality at Crystal Lake they need to figure out how to keep people from dumping murder victims in it.


rsp wrote on January 09, 2013 at 9:01 am

Now really, how often are there murder victims in the lake? The geese think they own it. And they bite. And they are Canadian. They walk in front of cars because they know it's illegal to hit them because they're migratory birds. But they don't migrate anymore, they just go from pond to pond. They do flyovers to fool us. They multiply every year. Soon they will walk into the stores to get their own bread. 

dd1961 wrote on January 09, 2013 at 10:01 am

Funny you should say that.  They stand at our glass front doors at work with their beaks right up to it looking in as if to say, Hey, let us in.

Spring is the worse.  We actually have to block off sections of the parking lot when they nest because they attack.  Once the babies are in the water, they settle down.  Then of course we get more and more because they come back to where they were born.  They are messy and a nuisance.


SaintClarence27 wrote on January 09, 2013 at 11:01 am

Can we force feed them and harvest foie gras?

LocalTownie wrote on January 09, 2013 at 10:01 am

This whole thing is so silly, I can't even keep a straight face as I type! Oooh they bite and they slow down traffic, oh my goodness what are we gonna do? Is that really the issue, or the fact that people think they are dirty, hmm? Because I haven't ever heard of a goose biting someone unless it's provoked. Lets round up all the wildlife living in your concrete jungle and deposit them in a county park where they belong! Too funny.

rsp wrote on January 09, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Try walking down the sidewalk. That's all it takes. Geese are territorial. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 09, 2013 at 12:01 pm

It's the warming.  They don't need to migrate as far anymore.  They are not just stopping over going south.  Mild winters have made them residents.  Before long, we will have snowbirds.  They are worse.  Their RV's take up parking space.

rsp wrote on January 09, 2013 at 2:01 pm

I think we've had a few already. I've heard a few fire calls where they went up in flames. They must have been following the geese.

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 09, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Birds of a feather................

dd1961 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 9:01 am

You obviously have never been around nesting geese.  They are really, really nasty at that time.  They will attack you.  The rest of the year they are just messy and benign.

lcoil79 wrote on January 09, 2013 at 10:01 pm

I hope it's not a sign of a waste of funds, but on my way home from work this evening, I saw a couple of geese checking out the new strobes and beating at them with their beaks.

rsp wrote on January 09, 2013 at 11:01 pm

They were looking for the off switch. Wait till they figure out they're solar powered, they'll cut off the light source. You just wait and see. The lights will go dark. 

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2013 at 9:01 am

They are intelligent.  They have redeeming qualities also.  They mate for life; and they care for their goslings.  They will sacrifice themselves for their young, and mates.  They work as a society also.  They have sentries, sage leaders of the formations, and work as a team.  Of course, they are an inferior species compared to homo sapians.  They have no rights in a civilized world.

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 11:01 am

I think you're talking about swans. Geese are terrible. :-)

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

Swans, and geese have the same traits.  Your just picking swans because they are white. ;)

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm

I'm a bird racist?

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck....... ; but that only applies to ducks.  Although, Ronald Reagan's duck joke did cost him Italian-American votes.

Swans do come it black, and white varieties so I will retract my insinuation.  However; swans, and geese both do mate for life, care and protect their young and mates.  The geese were migrating, and living around water well before Euro-Americans arrived.  The current battle between them, and urban sprawl may lead to their swan song though.  Eventually; they will not be heard, or seen flying in formation in the fall, and spring.  Their nemisis, the fox, will continue to degrade into a garbage can scavenger.  Yeah, nature is a nuisance.   

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

A lot of geese that could feed a lot of homeless in the shelters. Maybe we could have people performing court ordered community service trapping and preparing these geese for the shelters. A dirty job but it would be a hard lesson learned for violators and at the same time solve the geese population problem with free labor and feed some people in shelters all at once.

More productive than pretending to be homeless for a night

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2013 at 12:01 pm

What a terrible job....  Sentenced to be a Gooser?

SaintClarence27 wrote on January 10, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Unless it's a sex crime - then it's hardly punishment.

rsp wrote on January 10, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Why do the homeless get to eat the geese? Do you know how expensive they are in the stores? Hold a lottery and the winners can get their own goose. Our own Hunger Games, but we'll cut down on the geese. Who's with me?

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2013 at 3:01 pm

Why limit it to only geese?

rsp wrote on January 10, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Who are you volunteering, Sid?

Sid Saltfork wrote on January 10, 2013 at 8:01 pm

What covers more species.  Who implys only one species.  To avoid incurring PETA's wrath; I will not name the various domestic, and wild species available, and unwanted.  Some are considered delicacies in other cultures.  Give it a French name, and someone will eat it.

Bulldogmojo wrote on January 11, 2013 at 12:01 am

Wait a minute, on second thought we better not do the geese/food thing. We might infringe on their second amendment rights so we should allow them an opportunity to hire lobbyists and to arm themselves with assault weapons.

Oh and they will need bibles too for external validation, and ummm let's see oh yes an ad campaign that comes on 12 times an hour during the walking dead with Sarah Mclachlan music playing to get funding that they will never actually benefit from.

Oh yes they will need to have a publicist and lawyers to handle any unhatched eggs the viability of which will have to be decided upon by the supreme court over and over and over and over again...

rsp wrote on January 11, 2013 at 6:01 am