Geese may be forced to fly south for good

A flock of Canada geese has taken up residence on the campus of Northern Kentucky University, leaving many signs of its presence – and not just feathers or nests.

However, the status of the geese could be in jeopardy if a plan to renovate the area around Lake Inferior goes forward.

At the Oct. 13 Student Government Association meeting, Kent Kelso, dean of students, said a corporate donor has stepped forward with a gift of almost $2 million to sponsor the renovation. He said the renovation project would include renaming the lake and controlling the duck and geese population.

Senators at the meeting discussed renaming Lake Inferior due to the potentially demeaning implications the name bestows on the university, and the possibility of student involvement, including a contest, as part of the renaming process.

Kelso said he understood the importance of student input and said the donor, whom he declined to identify at this time, has not been granted naming rights.

Kelso also said the corporation that does the renovation will be expected to control the goose and duck populations that live near the lake as part of the overall renovation project.

Dr. Tom Rambo, NKU professor of behavioral ecology, said there are methods for removing the birds without killing or injuring them, but either way is ultimately ineffective, he said.

“The thing is, if they move them, they’re going to come back,” Rambo said. “This is ideal goose habitat. I think it’s really a vain effort.”

Canada geese – more commonly, and incorrectly, known as Canadian geese – are now a common, year-round sight in the Ohio River Valley. That wasn’t always the case, according to Rambo.

“It wasn’t all that long ago that they were endangered,” he said.

Canada geese were, from the mid-1970s until 1999, classified as an endangered species. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, they now number more than 3 million.

Rambo said he attributes the increase to the bird’s protected status, as well as an increasing number of golf courses.

“(Canada geese) like to forage where there’s not a lot of brush and shrubbery,” Rambo said. “Brush and shrubbery are where their potential predators will hide. When we have beautiful, nice, short grass going right up to the edge of a pond, like we do in golf courses, this is ideal to the Canada goose.”

The geese often leave behind an obstacle course for students who walk on the sidewalk near the lake, but Rambo said they have little to fear but dirty shoes.

“There’s a potential in that there are some fungal diseases that theoretically could start growing in dried…poultry droppings,” he said, but he stressed that the risk to students is minimal.

*This article was revised for clarity Oct. 20, 2003