Fate of geese goes back and forth
After trying around a dozen ways to remove geese that have caused damage to the greens at Ashton Hills Golf Course, without killing the birds, golf course management has opted to try one more way.
Bryan Raines, co-owner of Ashton Hills, went in front of the Covington City Council Monday to ask permission to fire weapons in the city, and use a permit granted to the course by the Department of Natural Resources to shoot and terminate 10 geese.
Social media backlash on a CovNews.com story concerning killing the geese has been impassionate on the side of the geese.
That outcry led the USDA to contact Raines and present a new method to relocate the birds.
When Elizabeth Miller, of the USDA’s wildlife service division, asked Raines if he was interested in a non-lethal way to take care of the geese, he quickly said yes. Then when she told him about relocating the geese, he said that Ashton Hills tried that already and it didn’t work. Then she laid out her plan. The geese will have their flight feathers
clipped, after molting season, and be taken more than 100 miles away. This way, by the maximum of three months it takes the flight feathers to grow back, and enable the geese to fly, they should be adjusted to a new home.
“Basically what it does, is it keeps them grounded for three months, and puts them in a location for a longer period of time,” Raines said. “They become acclimated to their new home and are less likely to come back.”
The cost of the relocation program, Miller said, was around $1,500 depending on how long it takes to clip the bird’s feathers.
Raines and a resident of Covington Place then came up with the idea to let the geese’s new fan club help keep the birds alive. The homeowner, who lives in a subdivision near Ashton Hills Golf Course, volunteered to start a Go Fund Me account to raise money for the geese.
The account at https://www.gofundme.com/ vwvtbvvj has a goal of $2,500 and a time limit. Money raised by the account will go toward relocating the birds, and excess funds raised will be donated the Newton County Humane Society.
“We have a very limited window,” Raines said. “If they’re going to fund it, it has to be within three or four weeks, because we’re going to start getting back into the migrating pattern, when we get a lot more birds. We get 50-70 in May and June and we’ll have no idea who the 12 resident geese are then.”
The geese have caused problems at Ashton Hills, prompting Raines to request permission from the City of Covington to fire weapons in city limits and use the DNR’s permit to eradicate the geese.
Raines told the council at Monday’s meeting that Ashton Hill’s staff has tried every method it could think of to get rid of about a dozen geese which have become residents of the course and its lakes. Dogs have been brought onto the course, chemi- cals have been sprayed, cayenne pepper has been put on nesting sites, fishing line was put in the lake to keep out the geese and even cranes were imported to chase off the geese.
None of those efforts, which had been brought to the attention of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), have worked.
“We’ve worked hard the last few years to eliminate the growth in population,” Raines said. “We have gone through the steps, and the DNR says this is the next step in the phase.”
According to Covington City Manager Leigh Anne Knight the city’s pest eradication permit does not cover geese. Raines had to come to the city for approval of the permit granted by the DNR to take care of the nuisance.
City ordinances also do not permit the firing of weapons in city limits. More than 78 percent of Ashton Hill’s golf course is in the city of Covington.
Raines has contacted both the Newton County Sheriff’s Office and the Covington Police Department after receiving permission from the DNR to shoot the geese. The Sheriff’s Office said they will have a deputy on hand during the removal of the geese, and that the Ashton Hills staff alert 911 dispatch ahead of time. The Covington Police Department will have officers on hand to make sure the shooting is done safely.
“We didn’t want a bunch of gunfire going off in county and we wanted people to know what’s going on,” Raines said.
The DNR’s permit for shooting the geese runs form March 11 through Aug. 31 and is for the shooting of 10 geese. The permit allows licensed hunters with a bird stamp to fire .410-gauge shotgun shells loaded with No. 6 pellets.
Councilman Michael Whatley, who lives on the golf course, made the motion to allow Ashton Hills to use the permit, and Josh McKelvey seconded. The motion passed unanimously.
An image from the Go Fund Me page created to help relocate the Ashton Hills Geese. Ashton Hills received permission from the DNR to shoot the geese, is trying a last-ditch effort to move them. The Go Fund Me Account, with a goal of $2,500, can be found at https://www.gofundme.com/vwvtbvvj