Border collie gets the drop on messy geese CA might use dog to herd birds at lake

July 03, 1996|By Alisa Samuels | Alisa Samuels,SUN STAFF

Fed up with the mess from free-ranging geese at Columbia's lakefront, Columbia Association officials are considering a little creative nuisance control -- of the four-footed variety.

In a noisy but effective demonstration last Friday, Jezebel the border collie scattered a flock of more than 50 geese from the hillside above Lake Kittamaqundi into the safety of the lake itself.

"It was great," said Fred Pryor, director of open space management for CA. "Very effective, very swift. Nobody was hurt, and that really is all you can ask for."

The demonstration by Glenn Gael Working Border Collies of Yardley, Pa., came as Columbia officials weigh how best to control the lakefront's geese, which increasingly have drawn complaints about the droppings they leave behind.

Pryor said CA has tried a number of ways to address the waterfowl problem -- including "Do Not Feed" signs that are frequently ignored by visitors to the lakefront.

Other communities in the United States have tried more radical approaches. In Clarkstown, N.Y., last month, officials rounded up 240 Canada geese and shipped them to a processing plant, where they were to be cooked, ground up and distributed to food pantries.

Columbia officials apparently are seeking a kinder, gentler alternative -- and that's where the border collie might come in.

Traditionally used to herd sheep and cattle in their native Scotland, the dogs recently have been used to herd geese at golf courses.

Gail Heinrich, the handler who brought Jezebel to Columbia, said the dogs do not bite the geese but give them "the border collie eye a stare that unnerves them."

"It's harassment is what it is," Heinrich said. "Finally, the geese say, 'I'll go someplace where I can relax.' "

The dogs can be expensive -- up to $2,500 to purchase, or $700 to lease monthly, not to mention the cost of a handler.

But Leonard Berg, golf superintendent at Canoe Brook Country Club in Summit, N.J., swears by the border collie method of goose control.

Before golf course officials purchased a dog last year, the 240-acre course attracted 200 geese a day. "It got to the point, the geese more or less thought this was their establishment and thought it was their home," he said.

Since the dog arrived, "there's not a goose on the property," Berg said. "It took about six months last year before we finally rid the entire golf course."

Columbia Council member Wanda Hurt of Owen Brown called the dog technique "more humane" than other methods of controlling the geese. She said CA would weigh whether a dog -- either purchased or leased -- would be practical for Columbia.

No decision has been made.

Those who watched Jezebel Friday were impressed with how she successfully moved the geese from the land, even jumping into the water at one point.

"She did her job thoroughly," said Susan Manger of Catonsville, who watched with her her two children, Malina, 3, and Alec, 1.

Jezebel gave Alec a present: She slapped a big sloppy lick across his mouth. "That's his first kiss," Alec's mother joked.

Pub Date: 7/03/96

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