Story by A.J. Arias
In the early hours of the morning on June 27 men and women of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) went around Greenwood Lake to capture and slaughter 248 geese on both the New York (142) and New Jersey (206) sides of the Lake for food consumption. The USDA was hired to carry out this project by the Greenwood Lake Commission.
At their meeting in June, the Commission received their first bit of backlash from Village of Greenwood Lake Mayor Jesse Dwyer. Dwyer lambasted the Commission for not taking out any advertisements or making a clear effort, outside of their meetings, to let the residents of Greenwood Lake know about the capture and slaughter, which took place on grounds and beaches that were open to the public at the time.
Beginning at the Commission’s July meeting, members of the Greenwood Lake community, led by Barbara Aarons, Michele Shenker, and Jan Dearing also known as the Committee for Humane Geese Control, began raising their voices in opposition to the Commission’s decision to kill the geese.
At the Commission’s meeting on Wed., Oct. 24, the Committee had the opportunity to make a formal presentation to the Commission presenting their findings on what the most humane and effective means of goose control are. Their research was extensive and coincided with the research of Geese Peace, a non-profit corporation that helps community leaders devise and implement humane, effective, and low cost solutions to wildlife conflicts, according the corporation’s website.
The Committee advocated for consistent and constant means of geese control including addling the geese’s eggs, a practice that terminates the embryo of an egg, tricking the geese into believing a location isn’t a fertile and safe area to lay eggs. Additionally, the Committee advocated the use of lasers, grass sprays, cutouts of common predators, and harassment from both border collies and humans alike.
The Committee handed the Commission a petition signed by 624 residents around the Greenwood Lake area who were against the killing of the geese.
Aarons ended the committee’s presentation by saying, “Hear us, Greenwood Lake should only be known for its beauty not its controversy.”
The Commission’s Response
Canada Geese, the species of geese around Greenwood Lake, are an invasive species to Greenwood Lake. Both sides of the debate believe their population levels have risen to astronomical heights.
The Greenwood Lake Commission has on several occasions stated their belief that geese droppings contribute to the Lake’s high E. coli and phosphorus levels, as well as their belief that these things can cause illness in humans such as ear, eye, and throat infections.
In December of 2017, the Commission accepted the contract from the USDA for $15,000 to $20,000 to do a survey of Greenwood Lake’s geese population and additionally to find any nests in order to addle eggs. The survey came back and found nine nests around the lake and found a population of approximately 300 geese.
In May of 2018, according to the Commission’s minutes, the Commission reached out to Mayor Dwyer in a letter, letting him know of the goose management program. Dwyer responded giving USDA officials access to any and all property owned by the Village of Greenwood Lake for the purpose of goose management.
In June of 2018, when the geese were going through their molting stage and couldn’t fly, the eggs of the nine nests were addled and all but 50 to 60 geese were rounded up and killed. The killing of the geese was well received by some members of the public, including Marina owner Nancy E. Jessen, who submitted a letter to the Commission thanking them for their actions.
According to Kim Clapper, a biologist with the USDA, the USDA will only carry out killings like the one done in June as a last resort. Clapper said that the USDA has to find evidence that humane methods of geese control are being used around the lake before any killings can take place.
The Commission has stated that it now intends to continue with the addling of the eggs along with other means of geese control in order to control population levels moving forward. The Commission currently has no outstanding contracts with any organizations to carry out any killings again but made no effort to combat a statement by Commissioner Eric Hastings, which stated, “Conditions warranted, I would do it again.”
Don’t Feed the Waterfowl
Both sides of the goose debate believe in one major thing, which is, don’t feed the geese. Feeding the geese is what causes the geese to come back again and again, especially to public areas like beaches. The best way to help with alleviating the geese population problem is to stop feeding waterfowl.
Commissioner Micki Lees has been in the works of installing a signage system around Greenwood Lake educating residents and visitors of the harms of feeding waterfowl.