by Max Brantley
The Coalition to Save the Geese of Burns Park has announced that the city of North Little Rock has agreed to a non-lethal method of controlling the Canada geese problem in the city's Burns Park. The city hopes to shoo them with dogs rather than shoot them.
Scott White of the Coalition said the decision was reached at a meeting this morning with Mayor Pat Hays; Parks Director Bob Rhoades and Kate Finefield, the Burns Park ranger. White said they discussed options for reducing the flock of some 200 geese — whose waste and personalities have been a problem in the park. The idea of a controlled hunt was scrapped for alternatives. Which ones?
"They ultimately settled on all of them — a double-barreled approach, no pun intended," said White. The work will begin immediately. The city will contract with handlers of several dogs to clear out the population rapidly, then eventually buy a dog for permanent patrol in the park, a method Little Rock has used successfully at Rebsamen Park across the Arkansas River from Burns Park.
Noise and light distraction also will be used, with flashing lights and possibly remote-controlled boats to disturb geese in the water, White said. Habitat will be changed by the planting of shrubs and tall grass between the golf course and soccer fields and water. White said geese like an easy path between grazing places and water and this disruptionshould discourage their making homes in the park. Rangers also will search for nests, temporarily remove eggs and apply oil, a process known as addling, which prevents eggs from hatching.
White said he expected the deal would become official with announcement at a City Council meeting tonight. The mayor told White he expected no "pushback." White said city officials said it could cost $24,000 to implement and they asked the Coalition to pay half the cost. White has put out a call for donations and set up a bank account to accept contributions.
"If we strike while the iron is hot, I think we can do it," White said. The proposal to reduce the flock by killing them had produced an outcry from animal lovers. That, in turn, produced some strong words from hunters anxious to take a shot at the birds.
UPDATE: Mayor Hays said White had described the morning meeting accurately, but said, "I'm not quite the city of North Little Rock." He said the deal wouldn't be official unless the City council approved tonight. He said he'd been moved to try an alternative because he couldn't adequately respond to those they hadn't been given a chance to show alternatives to a hunt could work. He said it was unfortunate that the parks commission's decision to hold a hunt had gone unreported and became known only shortly before the City Council first decided to go ahead with it.
A week before the scheduled hunt, Mayor Hays postponed it to give the community time to come up with alternatives. He didn't promise then that the hunt was scrapped for good, but city officials apparently decided that enough good suggestions came from the extended comment period to give them a try.
The news release from the coalition follows:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Coalition to Save the Geese of Burns Park Applauds City of North Little Rock, AR
Humane Goose Population Control Methods
North Little Rock, AR. (Dec. 27, 2011) — Coalition to Save the Geese of Burns Park, formed on November 28, 2011 with more than 1300 supporters, commends the City of North Little Rock for its decision to adopt non-lethal methods of controlling the population of Canada geese in Burns Park. On November 27, 2011, city officials passed an ordinance allowing firearms in Burns Park for a controlled goose hunt as the sole method of population management. Grassroots opposition emerged immediately and organized on Facebook, Twitter, and online petition.
“The community’s opposition to the goose hunt made all the difference,” said Scott White, one of the founders of the Coalition to Save the Geese of Burns Park. “We are very happy with the city’s responsiveness to that opposition and their agreement to a non-lethal goose management plan. The Coalition, for its part, has agreed to a fundraising goal of $12,000 and a volunteer force to help the city in its efforts.” Donations can be made to the Burns Park Goose Fund at Centennial Bank on Broadway in North Little Rock.
The Coalition has provided guidance and support for the use of non-lethal control methods as the debate unfolded over the last six weeks. Those methods, which the city will begin immediately, include specially trained dogs to frighten the geese away from targeted areas, harassment techniques to discourage nesting, and coating eggs in corn oil to prevent hatching of new goslings. The Coalition has pledged support to help carry out these plans.