Fate of geese goes back and forth

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - BRYAN FAZIO bfazio@cov­news.com

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.

The Cov­ing­ton News

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

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