Lynnfield Little League‘s president, Michael Bolger, is not ready to declare a public health emergency, but he would like something done about the resident Canada geese at Newhall Park.
“I have yet to find anybody in the universe of Little League who has had a documented health issue with goose poop,” said Bolger, who noted that the field is near Suntaug Lake, an attraction to the birds. “However, we’re extremely overpopulated with geese on our field.”
In past years, the number of geese that made their home at the field has been from 15 to 17, Bolger said, but this year it is up to 23. Bolger has estimated that over the seven weeks of the current Little League season, those geese will leave hundreds of pounds of feces, to be picked up by the town’s Department of Public Works or league volunteers.
The town administrator, Bill Gustus, said the Board of Health is taking its lead from the state Department of Public Health, and was told that it does not classify goose feces as a threat.
“That doesn’t mean we should ignore it, and I can tell you we haven’t been ignoring it, especially this year,” said Gustus, who was scheduled to meet with league officials this week on the issue. “The DPW has been out two or three times a week, sweeping it up, cutting the grass, and doing everything that needs to be done. But it’s a very difficult problem to deal with, especially with it being in such close proximity to Suntaug Lake.”
Dr. Louis Giamarco, a grandparent of a Lynnfield player and former member of the Wakefield Board of Health, disagrees about the dangers of geese feces and said he has been talking to Lynnfield officials for two years to no avail.
“There’s no question. That’s the thing that’s so frustrating,” said Giamarco, who lives in Middleton. “All I’m asking the board [of health] to do is to act responsibly and deal with a health issue. They continually refer to it as a nuisance, not a hazard.”
Bacteria found in the feces of geese can cause intestinal diseases if ingested, said Giamarco, who is a retired pediatric dentist. It can get on grass, on baseballs, and eventually onto the hands or into the digestive systems of ballplayers using the field, he said.
“It’s impossible for anybody to think, with dozens and dozens of kids between the ages of 9 and 13 running on that field on a daily basis, that some of them aren’t picking that up and putting it in their mouths,” Giamarco said. “Their argument with me is that, ‘Well, nobody has gotten sick so far.’ So in other words, they’re not going to act until some kid becomes violently ill, and then the parents are going to be considering a lawsuit.”
In the past, Bolger said, the league has tried using a decoy that looks like a coyote, and has tried sprinkling coyote urine on the field.
“We haven’t figured out a solution,” Bolger said.
Experts said the geese are more of a nuisance than a health threat.
If waterfowl are infected with a disease, it may pass that disease on to other animals, “But they typically don’t carry disease,” said Peter Mirandi, longtime director of public health in Danvers, who researched the topic when the town developed its policies. “That’s where we draw the line between a public health hazard and public health nuisance.”
Mirandi added that geese have never been the documented source of an outbreak of disease.
Tom O’Shea, assistant director of wildlife for the state Division of Fisheries & Wildlife, agreed that the public health threat is not severe.
Noting that any bird or mammal feces can carry disease, O’Shea said, “From the studies we’ve seen, the risk of disease to humans through contact with Canada geese feces appears to be minimal.”
Other local cities and towns also are addressing ways to keep the resident goose population from growing.
In Lynn, Councilor Wayne Lozzi said that he makes the rounds of goose nests at this time of year and coats eggs with a layer of vegetable oil, a process known as egg addling, to help contain the goose population in Ward 1. The process, recommended by wildlife experts, prevents oxygen from reaching the developing chicks, but keeps the eggs in the nest and therefore keeps the geese from laying any more eggs.
Nahant’s Board of Selectmen recently discussed the town’s adopting more aggressive goose mitigation, with Selectman Rich Lombard noting his concerns about health, nuisance, and the loss of revenue that could come if fewer customers want to play at the Kelley Greens golf course, which the town owns.
The town administrator, Andrew Bisignani, said he has explored hiring a company to help with the issue, and says the board “is looking to secure funding, or to find other options.”