Going to the dogs

otto geese laser

Dogs equipped with lasers might sound over the top. But the Canada goose is a persistent foe.

Green Island mayor Ellen McNulty-Ryan and her trusty pyrotechnic gun serve as one of this region's bulwarks against the invading hordes of Canada geese -- and crows! -- as highlighted by the Times Union again today. And the TU story prompted a range of reactions: tsk-tsking, tittering, Oh-Green-Island-ing, and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

Our reaction: Green Island should go to the dogs.

Really. The town/village should get some dogs. Border collies, probably.

Canada geese are a problem in many places, and people have tried all sorts of ways to scare off the birds. And there's research that indicates using dogs is the most effective option.

Geological Survey published a study in the journal Human-Wildlife Conflicts about attempts to disperse Canada geese at two sites in western New York using a range of methods, including pyrotechnics, remote-controlled boats, lasers, and border collies. A clip from the paper:

Geese were hazed on 378 separate occasions (Figure 2). Techniques most frequently used were lasers (n = 134), border collies (n = 113), laser/pyrotechnic combinations (n = 54), border collie and remote-controlled boat combinations (n = 37), and pyrotechnics (n = 27) alone. Border collie and remote-controlled boat combinations removed >90% of geese in 97% of events, while border collies alone were successful in 94% of events. Laser and pyrotechnic combinations removed >90% of geese in only 64% of events; lasers were successful in 64% of events, and pyrotechnics in 59% of events.

Of course, this leads to only one conclusion: Green Island should hire a pack of border collies equipped with lasers and remote-controlled boats. Because obviously.

It's notable that the use pyrotechnics was the least effective intervention. The researchers cite other studies indicating geese habituate to the noise. (It's a lot harder to get used to a border collie charging at you -- that's a lot more likely to press the "DANGER! DANGER! PREDATOR!" button.)

A bunch of places have used dogs to disperse birds. The National Park Service recently started employing them to get geese off the National Mall in DC. And many years ago, in another media life, we reported a story about two border collies whose job it was to keep geese off the field at a small airport. Those were some happy dogs. We get to chase things every day? Professionally? YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES!

All that said, Canada geese are persistent. That paper cited above notes that even though the dogs and other interventions managed to scare off the geese, the birds often didn't move far -- less than a mile on average -- "and without continual harassment they will likely return."

Earlier on AOA: Begun again the War on Crows has

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