Michigan DNR using dogs to solve 'messy' geese problem on Detroit's Belle Isle

Visitors to Belle Isle in Detroit likely are well aware that there are plenty of Canada geese at the island park. Unfortunately, with that many geese comes plenty of mess.

The Department of Natural Resources, which manages Belle Isle as a state park, over the years has worked to find solutions to manage goose populations here and at other sites.

Historically, geese have been rounded up in the summer and taken from southern Michigan (where geese are abundant) and relocated in the northern part of the state, which has fewer geese. While the strategy has been productive, such round-ups only control geese for about a month. Earlier this year, though, a year-round control option – Goodbye Geese – entered the picture.

Goodbye Geese, a Detroit-based business, offered its services to the park and is researching the effectiveness of using border collies to control geese in a uniquely challenging environment like Belle Isle. The dogs “haze” the geese – startling them and compelling them to fly elsewhere. This gentle practice scares geese away from an area and could be an alternative or a complement to traditional round-up efforts.

Goodbye Geese and its team of dogs have been patrolling the area of Belle Isle around Lake Tacoma. In August and September, they spent 29 hours hazing more than 5,000 geese in the core control zone, which includes the majority of Lake Tacoma (up to the Picnic Way bridge) and the land immediately surrounding it. This includes Strand Road, the southern riverbank, the Belle Isle Casino, the Flynn Pavilion, the Remick Band Shell and all the green space up to Picnic Way.

The hazing works like this: As soon as the geese see the dogs, they retreat to the nearest body of water. The dogs then jump in and give chase, swimming after the geese. Normally, after repeated such hazing, the geese get frustrated and fly away to look for a safer space.
Karis Floyd, DNR manager of Belle Isle Park and Milliken State Park and Harbor, said the early results are promising.

“So far, the research shows that the border collie hazing is working,” Floyd said. “In Belle Isle’s core control zone, the number of geese present has decreased over time.”

According to the Goodbye Geese website, a Cornell University study showed that each site visit from border collie patrols removed geese with a 94-percent success rate in the first 11 minutes.
The Belle Isle goose-clearing research project will continue until Nov. 30.

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