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City Council’s next target? Canada geese

Jessica Rinaldi

Canada geese, the omnipresent herbivores that populate many of Boston’s public spaces, have a new predator in New England: the Boston City Council.

At Wednesday’s meeting, sandwiched between discussions of living wages and school instruction, the council will also consider another measure: how to drive out Canada geese from the city’s “parks, playgrounds, ballfields, golf courses, and waterways,” according to the agenda.

If approved, the council will host a public hearing to seek input from residents and experts. The central question: What to do with a problem like the Canada goose — a long-necked, pint-sized nuisance — and more specifically, what to do with its poop?

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“A single goose can consume up to four pounds of grass per day and produce as much as three pounds of fecal matter every day, causing little league teams to spend time cleaning fields, dog owners to clean goose feces from their pets’ paws, and walkers to walk in the street to avoid fouled sidewalks,” wrote Councilor Annissa Essaibi George in her request for a hearing.

Essaibi George, an at-large city councilor, filed the request this week for a hearing on goose mitigation.

“Canada geese are often territorial and aggressive, especially while protecting goslings,” she wrote. “Adults can violently chase other wildlife, children, and small adults, hissing and even slapping and biting.”

Elliot Oren, owner of a private pest control company called Geese Police Boston, said the measure is long overdue. For years, the goose population has risen throughout Massachusetts, Oren said, stoked by changing migration patterns and a lack of natural predators. He said the population rise is also a public health danger: goose droppings can carry dangerous bacteria and parasites, such as E.coli and Giardia.

A public advisory from the state’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife called “Living With Geese,” also identified another reason for the recent population boom: “geese in urban areas tend to live twice as long as those in rural areas.”

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“Prior to the 1930s, it was unusual for geese to nest here, yet today in Massachusetts you can find Canada geese any time of the year,” read the public notice. “Some municipal ordinances effectively prohibit hunting, inadvertently creating “sanctuaries” that allow buildup of flocks.”

So what can, and should, be done?

 A Canada goose in the Public Garden.
A Canada goose in the Public Garden.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Essaibi George said all options would be on the table, including relocating entire gaggles and using chemicals to sterilize goose eggs. However, she stressed that final decisions would be made after learning from the public and experts during an issue hearing, which could be scheduled after the council meeting Wednesday.

“I’m a parent, and we use a park pretty frequently. The waste that geese produce has affected our ability to really enjoy the park,” Essaibi George said. “We’ve invested in our park system, and for them to be destroyed by geese impacts our ability to enjoy [the parks] fully.”

In his business, Oren uses border collies to chase geese from a designated area. He is confident the same method could work in Boston, and it comes with the added bonus of no physical harm to the goose.

“[Geese] gravitate to well-manicured healthy green grass,” Oren said. “But there’s plenty of places, even in Boston, where they can go and not be a nuisance to people.”

Whatever happens, Essaibi George said something needs to be done. Personally, she is tired of the abandoned family picnics, wasted playdates, and frightened pedestrians, she said. Once, at a fund-raiser for the Martin Richard Foundation, held at Joe Moakley Park, Essaibi George said goose droppings almost ruined the spirit of the event, because the park was littered with poop.

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“This has become a barrier for a lot of people to use our parks,” Essaibi George said of the droppings.

And that stinks for everyone.


Astead W. Herndon can be reached at astead.herndon@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @AsteadWH.