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The Virginian - Pilot (Norfolk, VA.)
PORTSMOUTH - the birds terrorized groundskeepers at Bide-A-Wee Golf Course for years.
Drawn by manicured greens and peaceful ponds, Canada geese descended by the hundreds each day to rest, eat - and poop. They left nests on tee boxes, dead spots on grass and pounds of feces everywhere.
"There was just too many," said Adam Relan, the PGA golf pro at Bide-A-Wee. "When you see 200 geese on a green, you just don't want to play through it."
Park officials had enough last summer, so they sought help from a local company that could use trained dogs to shoo the pesky guests. But red tape stood in the way. An ordinance banned unleashed animals from roaming the city-owned golf course, and the park had to wait months before the City Council adopted amendments.
"They're using this practice all over the East Coast," said Mark Furlo, the city's parks and recreation director, noting that other golf courses have gotten rid of their goose problems using dogs. "But working in government, stuff normally takes a little bit longer."
Finally, in October, the council agreed on the changes, and Bide-A-Wee was free to bring in Dan Stallings and his pack of 15 Weimaraners for $3,800. Portsmouth hired Stallings' Norfolk-based goose-control business for one year, tasking him with Bide-A-Wee, the 9-hole Links at City Park, and Oak Grove Cemetery.
"When we started off, I counted about 200," Stallings said during a recent trip with Buck, 4, and Blue, 6. "Now there are hardly no geese at all."
In fact, the only geese around that day flocked just outside the park's main entrance, out of reach of Stallings and his rambunctious helpers.
Canada geese, which can weigh up to 15 pounds and discharge a pound of droppings each day, are territorial birds known to chase people who get too close. Weimaraners, Stallings says, make the perfect deterrent because they're big and brawny, which means they're scary enough to keep geese away.
They're also harmless. Stallings has trained the rescue dogs to bolt toward packs of geese without actually touching their targets.
"When you've got multiple dogs charging at them like that, they're not going to challenge them," Stallings said. "I want the geese to fear being here because they never know when these guys are going to show up."
They make randomly timed trips to Bide-A-Wee about three days per week, chasing off birds and putting on a show for any that may be flying above. Their glossy, charcoal-gray coats and muscular bodies are easy to spot from afar - especially when they're dashing across a spotless field. He avoids a schedule so the birds don't time their visits around the canines.
Effective as the effort has been so far, the team's skills will be tested this spring, when more birds flock there to mate. Joe Gatling, a golfer assistant at the course, expects the birds will put up a tough fight.
A handyman, Gatling has been trying for at least three years to get rid of the geese using dog and wolf decoys, even making some that spin in the wind. He hopes the real thing will finally do the trick.
"It's going to be a challenge," Gatling said. "They're pretty smart - and pretty persistent."
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