By Fred Drewes
Willy, Lily and Nova are new volunteers at Heritage Park. Willie and Nova, both corgis, and Lily, a border collie, have been recruited to form a “geese patrol.” According to a joint document by New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, “the use of trained dogs to chase geese is among the most effective techniques available today” to prevent the annoyance of Canada geese.
Janet Smith, Regan and Chris Erhorn and Kerry and Lynn Hogan-Capobianco are the proud owners of these dogs that have volunteered to herd the geese away from the Mount Sinai park.
Willy, a Pembroke Welsh corgi, is 10 years old and was abandoned before being rescued by Smith. Nova, a tri-color Pembroke, is 1 year old and was adopted from a breeder in Pennsylvania. Lily is 12 years old and was adopted at the North Shore Animal League. The dogs are friendly, loyal and have strong herding instincts. As part of the geese patrol, the three will be on call. Staff and volunteers of the Heritage Trust will call on the dogs when geese appear so that they can chase the birds from the park to prevent them from dirtying up the area.
Commissioner Ed Morris of the Brookhaven Department of Parks and Recreation gave the animals permission to “work” at Heritage Park and said he is thankful for the owners’ volunteer efforts. The parks department has also purchased silhouettes of dogs to display in the park. The combination will discourage the grazing of geese and reduce what the geese leave behind.
The population of resident Canada geese has increased and become an annoyance in parks, on golf courses and landscaped areas of condos and co-ops. Lush grass provides gourmet grazing. Unfortunately, these geese eat up to three pounds of grass per day and leave a trail of feces behind. It is estimated that each goose can produce from 1 to 1.5 pounds of droppings per day, according to the Internet Center for Wildlife Damage Management. The ball fields, paths and play knoll of Heritage Park have been littered with geese droppings, and research has shown that droppings contain a variety of pathogens capable of infecting humans. Although there is no clear evidence the droppings are transmitting diseases or are a threat to public health, the main concern is the mess left behind.
No one relishes walking on a path or playing on a field full of feces. This aesthetic problem is what the geese patrol will try to solve. If the geese are chased enough, they will learn to avoid swooping into the park, leaving visitors able to enjoy the open space and paths without tip-toeing through goose poop.
If you see Willy, Nova or Lily working in the park, the dogs are not there to play or exercise, but thank them for their efforts. Heritage Trust, the park and the town parks department are working together to make “The Wedge” one of the most popular parks in Brookhaven.
Fred Drewes is a founding member of Mount Sinai’s Heritage Trust and spends much of his time volunteering to help beautify Heritage Park.