Canada geese become nuisance at park

Droppings at Silver Lake raise health concerns

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MAPLE FALLS — A growing flock of resident Canada geese are creating a problem at Silver Lake Park, where their feces pockmark places that visitors also like to congregate — the children's playground, grassy picnic area and swimming beach.

"It's gotten progressively worse as the flock has gotten bigger," said Mike McFarlane, director of Whatcom County Parks and Recreation Department, adding that the feces have generated complaints from visitors and raised concerns about public health at the county park near Maple Falls.

McFarlane wants to reduce the number of resident geese, which he said could number as many as 80, to an acceptable level, stressing that he doesn't want all the geese removed.

That has created concerns from some that the county plans to kill the birds, even as opponents acknowledge that the amount of goose droppings is an issue.

An adult goose can produce 1 to 3 pounds of droppings a day.

"There's no doubt the geese are a problem in terms of the feces," said Wendy Harris, a Silver Beach resident in Bellingham who is raising concerns. "It's inconvenient. It's ugly. It's disgusting. It hinders people's enjoyment. But is it dangerous?"

Harris believes the county is overstating health concerns related to the droppings, as well as public complaints. She wants greater study on managing the geese, including the crafting of a wildlife management plan for Whatcom County.

Silver Lake isn't the only place where resident Canada geese pose problems.

They were originally introduced into Western Washington to bolster declining migratory goose populations. Over time, the population of resident geese jumped, especially in urban areas where there are few predators, a dependable supply of food year-round, and prohibitions on hunting.

Hunting isn't allowed at Silver Lake. Signs have gone up asking people to stop feeding the geese. Resident geese are those that don't migrate; they stay in a place year-round.

Canada geese like mowed lawns around homes, golf courses, parks, and similar spots next to open water -- the same places that people like.

"Everyone likes to see them. Having geese around is great, but when you have too many it's really the droppings that create the problems and the nuisance," McFarlane said, adding that their feces contribute to swimmer's itch among people who use Silver Lake.