Fowl foul town beach
Warwick seeks answer for geese
WARWICK — Many in town enjoy Moore’s Pond for the recreation opportunities it provides ... but some of the pond’s seasonal visitors are noisy, leave a mess behind and can be ornery if approached.
“Some people like the geese,” said Town Coordinator David Young.
“Others don’t like them (defecating) all over their lawns, docks, driveways and so on.”
The pond is the summer home of about a dozen adult, migratory Canada geese and a handful of goslings. One apparently injured adult goose stays year-round, said Young, adding that there appears to be just one dominant breeding pair of geese at present.
Although goose droppings on private property and town-owned Moore’s Pond Beach have proved an annoyance, they’re not a detriment to the water’s quality, which is tested weekly.
“The water is often good enough to drink,” said Young.
As for the mess, most of it is found on private, pond-side properties. This makes it more of a neighborhood nuisance than a town problem.
The town does, however, own Moore’s Pond Beach, so Warwick has been exploring several methods — some less conventional than others — to keep the geese from hanging out on the beach and leaving their scat in the sand.
“Grape Kool-Aid didn’t work,” admits Young.
Ingredients found in the purple drink powder had been suggested as a deterrent to geese, that supposedly find it repulsive.
Though it may seem an odd way to get rid of the big birds, there’s at least a little science behind it.
Some suggested methods have been far more whimsical, with residents chiming in with their own suggestions via the “Warwick-L,” an online mailing list.
“Has anyone considered just asking the geese if they’d move along?” pondered Joe Farley. “Maybe we could just make them feel unwelcome or uncomfortable and they’d be inclined to leave.
“Start by not making eye contact, and don’t say ‘hi’ when you pass.”
While some make light of the situation, others find it to be no laughing matter. One man has even considered taking up arms against the flock of foreigners.
At a July Selectboard meeting, Jon Calcari told the board that resident Al Metzger had offered to take care of the geese “once hunting season starts” in September.
It is, however, illegal to discharge a firearm within 500 feet of a road or residence, leaving only a section of the pond, at its unpopulated, swampy northern edge, suitable for goose hunting.
There are several other, less violent, methods that may be used, including scare tactics.
Conservation Commission Chairwoman Karro Frost had several suggestions. Dogs could be used to run the geese off the beach, and people could chase them away by flapping tablecloths or similar items at the geese, to make themselves look large and intimidating.
Swan decoys could be placed near the pond, she said, though they’d have to be moved periodically so the geese don’t wise up to them. Live trumpeter swans could also be a deterrent, suggested another, but that cure may be worse than the proverbial disease.
The swans aren’t native to the area, said Young, and can be detrimental to other species that are native. Besides, he said, a breeding pair of trumpeter swans could populate the pond and they’re just as likely as geese to make a mess of the beach and in nearby yards.
Furthermore, the town would need to buy the birds, which Young said cost about $4,000 for a pair, get permits to keep them, and house and feed them over the winter.
“Wouldn’t that make for an interesting special town meeting?” he wrote in an email.
Other deterrents Frost suggested include flags or aluminum pie plates that would blow in the wind and startle the geese, as well as stationary scarecrows and decoy dogs.
Frost also suggested that the birds could be made to feel uneasy by planting tall grasses or other high plants at the water’s edge. When geese don’t have a clear view of what’s around them, he said, they become wary of hidden predators and seek a safer place to live.
Barbara Noel, who lives by the pond on Wendell Road, replied that many of these methods had been tried unsuccessfully in the past, not fooling the fowl, which she called “very smart.”
For now, the town is taking a more traditional approach, asking residents and visitors not to encourage the geese. It’s the belief of some, said Young, that the geese have been made to feel welcome by those who give them free food.
To that end, signs asking people not to feed geese and other wildlife have been put up at the beach, and a letter to the same effect went out to nearby homes.
Next year, said Young, the town may choose to interfere with the geese’s breeding process. However, the town would need to get state and federal permits to “addle” the eggs, a process which kills the developing goose embryo. An oil could also be used on the eggs, to kill embryos through oxygen deprivation. State and U.S. permits are also required for that process.
Young expects that some will find issue with those methods.
“If we apply, there will be a public comment period,” said Young. “I think some people will say we should leave the geese alone.”
In the meantime, husband and wife Matthew and Kathy Connelly, also members of the Moore’s Pond Beach Committee, said they will continue their daily routine of cleaning the beach of goose droppings until the geese fly south for the winter.
David Rainville can be reached at:
or 413-772-0261, ext. 279