Downtown park gooses protection efforts

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March 29, 2004 // UPDATED 10:27 am - April 25, 2007
By: Scott Russell
Scott Russell

Mill Ruins Park is trying to get in front of the goose problem this year -- which could mean more geese get cooked.

Last year, a dry summer and hungry Canadian geese turned the park's grassy lawn into something of a chalky moonscape.

This year, the University of Minnesota's goose control program will include the park and the Park Board headquarters, 2117 W. River Rd. N., in its goose assessment. For a goose, that's the first step toward winding up in a food shelf.

The Mississippi River above St. Anthony Falls is something of a goose hot spot. Shanna Hendrickson, natural resources coordinator for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board, said for the past five years, the area has averaged more than 500 geese a year.

If the university's goose counts find breeding pairs, the Park Board could have them removed, Hendrickson said.

Targeting geese that are breeding reduces future problems, Hendrickson said. "These geese often return to the same site every year," she said. "We are not getting the returnees."

Assistant Superintendent Mike Schmidt said in the past, when geese were less abundant, places in Oklahoma and Kansas would take them. Now, geese are so prevalent, no one wants them, he said.

The adults get donated to food shelves, Hendrickson said. The young ones go to Iowa or Red Lake County, where they are raised and eventually donated to the food shelf.

The goose removal program has focused on Lake of the Isles since 1982, she said. Lake of the Isles is the goose-breeding hub for the Chain of Lakes. Geese have the goslings there, and then forage and pond-hop to the other lakes.

Last year, the Park Board expanded the goose removal program to include Theodore Wirth Golf Course, and to a lesser extent Loring Park, Hendrickson said. In 2003, the Park Board had 207 geese removed, 103 goslings and 104 adults.

The Park Board will also continue to use "Flight Control" at Mill Ruins Park. Workers spray the chemical on the grass. Geese can see it in the ultraviolet spectrum -- and when they eat it, it makes them sick to their stomachs.

"Next time they see the coloration in the grass, it is an area they will avoid," she said.