City officials in Cedar Rapids are trying to control a problem that’s been growing over the years in public parks.
Canada geese are an almost constant site in the city and while they’re popular with many residents, they’re also prone to make a mess and attack park users.
Cedar Rapids didn’t always have Canada geese, in fact, they used to be an endangered species.
In the 1970s, resident and now city councilman, Don Karr bought six pairs from a conservation group in Minnesota and brought them to Cedar Rapids in memory of his late father.
“They were almost gone, we were losing them. We thought, in our wisdom, we could save the Canada goose, a magnificent bird, and save it by introducing it to a different area. What I didn’t realize was all the goose droppings that came with it,” Karr said, laughing. Today, the city’s goose population has reached epic proportions.
City workers are sometimes called on to grab hundreds of geese along streams, parks, and even golf courses. The adults are separated from the young and they’re loaded in trucks. Tim Thompson, with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, says the young geese can be taken to nearby, less urban areas – where they usually stay for good.
“When they learn to fly, they imprint over the area we took them to, so they think that’s their home and they won’t come back typically,” Thompson says. “But, if we had adults in with those young, those adults will bring the young right back up here.”
The annual “goose roundup” in Cedar Rapids was conducted this week. The adults are taken far away to a state park in southwest Iowa, in the hopes that they won’t find their way back before the close of a city-wide festival celebrating the Fourth of July next week. Recently, the city council approved the latest goose-control measure, an ordinance that imposes fines of up to $300 for people that feed the birds repetitively.
Cedar Rapids Parks Superintendent Daniel Gibbins says feeding the birds makes them congregate in city parks. “When there are too many geese, we have interactions that turn negative,” Gibbins says. “We’ve had geese attacking bicyclists and if you walk the trails, there are goose droppings everywhere. So, that becomes a health hazard too.”
Many cities in Iowa employ other techniques to control the waterfowl. In Des Moines, trained dogs can be hired to chase the geese away.