Friday, June 14, 2024

Sandpoint geese rounded up, euthanized

Hagadone News Network | July 1, 2023 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Fans of Canada geese that make their home at City Beach say the waterfowl should have been allowed to live in peace.

Others say the geese are a nuisance, harassing community members and tourists alike who head to the beach for rest and recreation.

Sandpoint officials said they've tried everything possible, from harassment from specially trained dogs to its first controlled hunt in December 2022. Nothing has worked. Last Friday, June 23, USDA Wildlife Services, Wildlife Services staff rounded up the geese under its statewide degradation permit and euthanized them.

The city did not special how many Canada geese were rounded, but one critic of the move said an estimated 150 of the waterfowl were killed.

In a written statement, city administrator Jennifer Stapleton said city officials reached out to USDA Wildlife Services for a relocation permit this spring as part of their ongoing efforts to manage geese at the beach. However, they were advised the city was unlikely to get approval due to the continuing Avian flu outbreak. However, the city was advised the agency would be willing to conduct a roundup of the geese followed by euthanization of the geese under the agency's own permit.

The plan was administratively approved by Mayor Shelby Rognstad to allow Wildlife Services to perform the work under their permit at City Beach.

Saying the decision was not an easy one, Rognstad said in the statement that the city has tried a variety of non-lethal methods at great expense but with little to no success.

"It has become a public health issue for our community and visitors not to mention a huge deterrent for public use of City Beach," Rognstad said in the statement. "The city and its residents value wildlife. City Beach, however, is a public park, not a wildlife sanctuary."

Saying the city needed to prioritize public health and recreation in its busiest park, Rognstad said the only viable remaining option was a humane roundup and euthanization by USDA Wildlife Services.

"USDA Wildlife Services has been our partner in non-lethal measures for years and we appreciate the support in helping the city of Sandpoint resolve this problem in the most humane way possible," Rognstad said.

The number of geese targeted, which included goslings, was estimated by resident Jane Fritz at 150. In a press release on the matter, city officials did not specify how many geese were euthanized.

Long opposed to what she said amounts to a massacre of innocent creatures, Fritz said she called Idaho Fish & Game on June 22. In the call, made she said on a hunch, Fritz asked whether the city planned to allow the geese to remain at City Beach through the summer or would seek “lethal removal” of the geese before a degradation hunt this fall.

Fritz said she was told that the city planned a "lethal removal" of geese in coordination with USDA Wildlife Services. The agency previously worked with the city in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Fritz said she attempted to reach out to city officials but never received a return phone call.

"Getting a depredation permit is a process. Planning massive euthanasia is a process," Fritz said. "How dare they try to pull the wool over the public's eyes."

Fritz believes Sandpoint officials have either lied or obfuscated information about the geese to hide their plans from the public. Proposed solutions, such as goose deterrent beacons used in nearby cities, or allowing dogs on leashes on the beach's pathways, were ignored.

"I believe the city's real desire is for the geese to be killed," Fritz said. "… I’m here to tell you that kill these geese, and more geese will come. It’s going to take the public to demand more humane solutions at our beach to deter them."

Killing the geese will do nothing to solve the problem, resident Janice Jarzabek said.

"Because … individuals find the geese offensive due to their droppings on the beach, [the city's] idea is to kill them," she said.

Efforts to round up the Canada geese in an attempt to relocate only caused "distress and angst" among both the birds and residents alike, said Jarzabek, who along with her husband Joe, offered to buy the lights.

"They chased the birds down, netting them, then roughly throwing them into trucks hauling them away to an unknown place," she said of witnessing a 2020 roundup during which she said she was thrown to the ground by an IFG official who objected to her taking pictures. "It was sheer chaos and extraordinarily stressful."

Three weeks later and $3,000 of taxpayer money later, the geese were back at City Beach.

City officials said they have been working to resolve the conflict between the public and what has become a year-round, growing population of Canada geese at the beach for more than 20 years.

They've tried everything from signs telling the public not to feed the geese, special equipment to clean up the goose feces, harassment with trained dogs and their handlers, deterrent decoys, and many others.

Sandpoint officials also reached out to GeesePeace, a private goose management agency. A two-day discussion, which encompassed everything from egg oiling, nest replacement, and nest destruction ended up not being realistic, Stapleton said.

"Implementation of this strategy is challenging given that the geese don’t nest at City Beach or typically within Sandpoint city limits," she said.

City staff have spent numerous hours cleaning up the goose feces and, in total, hundreds of thousands of dollars have been spent in an attempt to control the goose population, Stapleton said.

Sandpoint officials said the Canada geese are linked to a growing problem of E.coli in the water near City Beach, something noted by Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper starting in 2016.

In 2018, Stapleton said the city engaged USDA Wildlife Services to discuss possible management strategies. The result was the first permit to capture and relocate the geese to an unpopulated area south of town. Relocation efforts were conducted in 2019, 2020, and 2021. An outbreak of Avian flu canceled a planned relocation effort in 2022.

Identification bands placed on the birds showed that most of the birds returned to the beach by late August each year.

About 200 resident geese were at City Beach this year, consistent with the number of geese at the site in the past.

The council authorized goose hunting at the beach in December 2022. While popular, only one goose was harvested. However, Sandpoint City Council approved a second hunt for this fall in a 5-1 vote.


(Photo courtesy DONNA DAVIS)

Canada geese and goslings are pictured at Sandpoint City Beach earlier this month in a photo shared with the Daily Bee.