Plan to control geese detailed

Plan to control geese detailed

URBANA — Here's one Mother Goose story you won't find in the children's section of your public library.

Within the next few weeks, Urbana Park District staffers plan to visit goose nests at Crystal Lake Park when the mothers are away, remove the eggs, dunk them in corn oil to keep the embryos from developing and the eggs from hatching, then return the eggs to the nests. It's all part of the park district's plan to reduce a mess-making Canada geese population now approaching 100 at Crystal Lake.

The details were laid out Wednesday night during a public meeting at Anita Purves Nature Center. When the park district's Derek Liebert asked if anyone in the audience of about 35 was opposed, no hands went up.

"Crystal Lake Park is now a goose factory," said Bob Vaiden of Urbana. "The landscape's been modified, and the predators are gone. We are going to end up with a park basically dedicated to geese, and it is already hard to try to take a walk through the park. Hopefully, the nest and egg modifications will work."

Others shared that sentiment during the public-comment portion of the meeting.

"As a bird watcher and a bird lover, I think this is a serious problem," said Beth Chato of the Champaign County Audubon Society. "I think the park district is taking a responsible action to try to solve the problem."

Project Manager Caitlin Lill said the Canada geese living at the park have a life expectancy of 20 years, and they begin to breed when they are 3. A typical mother goose lays between five and seven eggs per nest, she said.

Any egg- or nest- "management program" would first require a permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which the park district says it plans to apply for in the coming weeks.

The IDNR got about 500 requests for such permits last year alone, the agency's urban waterfowl project manager, Roy Domazlicky, told The News-Gazette last month. What the Urbana Park District is proposing is an effective way to keep the flock from increasing, Domazlicky added.

Liebert said the number of geese, which has grown by about 20 in the last month alone, is "overly impactful."

By that, he means, there are goose droppings seemingly everywhere you turn at Crystal Lake. A single goose can produce up to 1 pound of feces a day, he said.

The water quality at Crystal Lake is also showing an effect, he said, with droppings washing into the lake to create a green sheet on the water's surface.

"It looks pretty awful," he said.

Liebert told those attending Wednesday's meeting that the park district has a two-pronged plan to reduce the goose population.

The first — dunking the eggs in corn oil — will take place from mid-March through May.

Liebert said he anticipates the oil dipping will be an annual activity for park staff until the goose population has sufficiently been reduced.

Phase 2 involves extensive modifications to the geese habitat, including incorporating tall grasses.

That could take a while.

"We anticipate that is going to cost several hundred thousand dollars, so it could be a few years before we have the money to do that," Liebert said.