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CHEYENNE - With spring mating season for Canada geese nearly here, the Parks and Recreation Department plans to redouble its efforts to curb the population.
Canada geese have been a growing concern for the city in recent years as more of the birds have taken up residence in certain parts of the city, namely Holliday Park, Lions Park and at the Airport Golf Course.
In addition to showing occasional hostility to park goers and their pets, the geese have left feces in the areas where they congregate. That has helped contribute to the unpleasant odor of Holliday Park's Lake Minnehaha as well as high nitrogen levels that can kill local grasses.
While Canada geese are traditionally migratory, many of those here have become sedentary with plenty of food and water around.
"The increase in the number of geese in the last 25 years is pretty astronomical," said Barb Gorges.
She is president of the Cheyenne-High Plains Audubon Society and a regular column writer for the WTE.
"The geese like having water and they like having grass, and our most popular parks have (those)," she added.
Jason Sanchez, the Parks Department's director of grounds and facilities, added that geese prefer the parks due to the lack of natural predators. And there is the fact that some park goers still are feeding them despite signs discouraging the practice.
"When people feed them, they lose their migratory sense," Sanchez said. "Honestly, most of the geese are year-round residents now. That's why we're trying to get them to migrate and move on."
To stop the geese population from increasing and to encourage migration, the city plans to renew its egg addling program this spring and summer.
That is a process by which goose eggs are dipped in vegetable oil then returned to their nest. The oil cuts off oxygen to the embryo and the egg fails to hatch.
This method is preferred by the American Humane Society. It makes the geese less likely to try to lay more eggs than if they were just removed or destroyed.
If you remove the eggs, the geese will just keep laying more eggs," Gorges said. "But if you oil them, they think they have eggs and just sit on them."
Sanchez said last year's egg addling, which ran from March through August, prevented more than 200 goslings from being born. The city has secured a new permit from the Wyoming Game and Fish Department that will let it resume addling through Aug. 31.
"We haven't identified any new nests this year, but we're keeping our eyes open and trying to do what we can do," Sanchez said.
Addling isn't the only method the city is using to reduce the population. The remediation efforts underway at Lake Minnehaha also are intended to make the lake less ideal for geese to congregate.
The banks will be steeper, making it harder for geese to move between the water and the grass.
Sanchez said the remediation effort has helped to disrupt a large portion of the goose population at Holliday Park, though some stragglers are still hanging out in the grassy areas.
"It's far fewer than what we've had out there the last few years," Sanchez said. "We're trying every natural method we can to control the population. We're trying to get them to migrate on and not call our parks their home."