Urbana geese protest

People gather at the corner of Park Street and Broadway Avenue on Tuesday to protest the Urbana Park District’s decision to harvest 60 to 100 geese next month.

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URBANA — Despite continuing rallies to save geese at Crystal Lake Park, the Urbana Park District is moving forward with plans for a “charity harvest” this summer that could kill more than 60 of the birds.

Earlier this month, the Urbana Park District board unanimously approved applying for a charity-harvest permit from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

If it’s approved, employees of the United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Division would come to the park in June or early July to collect the geese and take them to a facility to be killed, with the meat donated to a food bank.

“Our intent as a district is to proceed,” said Timothy Bartlett, the executive director of the park district.

Before the May 12 vote, a group of Friends of the Crystal Lake Park Geese gathered at the corner of Park Street and Broadway Avenue to urge the board to save the geese. They organized again Tuesday, when more than 30 people showed up, said Susan Parenti, an organizer who lives near the park.

More rallies are scheduled, including one at noon today and another on Tuesday.

“We had 45 minutes of protesting, urging people to honk if they support the geese,” Parenti said.

Today, they’ll be handing out a fact sheet and hope to talk with Urbana Park District administrators.

“Why must we get this done this year?” Parenti said. “It’s not ethical to kill wild birds merely because their mess bothers us.”

Another organizer, Ilir Sulejmani, said that “research shows that humane strategies are more effective for long-term geese management.”

“It is imperative that the UPD cancel this mindless slaughter before it is too late,” Sulejmani said.

The group also created an online petition that has more than 1,000 signatures.

Bartlett said he’d be willing to talk with the protesters.

“We continue to work as a staff team in providing information, education and hearing from our public here in Urbana,” he said. “We continue to have discussions with folks that will engage with us and we hope to have some positive actions we could engage in together to help improve all the habitat and wildlife in the parks in Urbana — particularly at Crystal Lake Park.”

The park district has been trying to manage the Canada geese population since at least 2012, including with chemical deterrents, coyote decoy hazing, applying oil to eggs, dog hazing and the lake restoration project, which includes planting taller natural grasses that are less attractive to geese.

The charity harvest is expected to cost between $4,000 and $6,000, depending on how many birds are killed.