Parks Officials Support Scaring Canada Geese Out of Mead, Disrupting Birds’ Breeding Cycles


Town officials last week voiced support for using taxpayer money to hire a Wilton-based company to scare Canada geese at Mead Pond and disrupt the birds’ breeding cycles in an effort to make sure their droppings go away from playing fields.

Entry into New Canaan Community Foundation’s first-ever “I [Heart] New Canaan” photo contest. Credit: Norman Jensen

The Park & Recreation Commission voted unanimously to recommend accepting about $5,000 from parents of New Canaan High School baseball players and requesting $15,000 in next fiscal year’s budget for the balance of a “geese management” program that would include Mead as well as the Saxe Middle School playing fields.

The money would be paid to Chris Santopietro of Geese Relief LLC. The company’s website says ‘Got poop? We can help.’

Geese Relief works with “highly trained working border collies,” Santopietro told Park & Rec commissioners at their Dec. 14 meeting, held at Lapham Community Center.

“We never touch or harm a goose but the geese don’t know that,” he continued. “We are introducing what they think is a predator. If you do it correctly, it works. Now, I’m honest with everyone: It is maintenance. It’s not a cure-all or end-all. It’s not like we are going to come for a week, a month, even a year and you will never see a goose again. What you have at Mead Park and what you have had for years and years and years is a breeding ground.”

According to Santopietro, returning or “resident” Canada geese return to an area previously cleared of the fowl if there’s no maintenance of the property. That could mean two visits per day Monday through Saturday and one on Sunday, Santopietro said. Geese Relief worked Mead Park two years ago and was effective in ridding the grounds of Canada geese, he said, but the company lost money because the town didn’t pick up a year-round contract and “those months, March April May June, are crazy months.”

They also mark a season during which Canada geese are tending to flightless goslings, making the scaring of geese inhumane, according to the U.S. Humane Society. The nonprofit organization recommends several measures, including appropriately timed hazing and landscaping as well as chemical repellents, to ensure that Canada geese go elsewhere.

In working Mead two years ago, Santopietro recalled, one resident of a condominium abutting the park didn’t allow him to go after a breeding pair on private land.

“I had this woman, used to curse me out daily from the condos, so we can’t go up there,” he said.

One key of any successful program, experts say, is “egg addling,” whereby a goose egg where an air sac has not yet developed (tested by dropping the egg in a bucket of water) is coated in oil so that it doesn’t hatch. That signals to the mother goose that reproduction is unsuccessful at the location, and she is more likely to try and nest elsewhere the following year.

Commissioners asked whether the dogs scare the geese off just by making noise (no the collies swim and will go to herd geese like sheep or cattle), whether geese are protected in some way so that there’s no better way to get rid of them (a town needs a permit to round up and kill the geese during molting season but people don’t like it), how geese nesting on the island is addressed (take a kayak there) and where the geese go if they’re moved out (they likely will find an open-water nesting ground, as a single flock).

Under federal law, allowable ways to reduce Canada geese populations include destroying eggs and nests, shotguns, lethal and live traps, nets and carbon dioxide asphyxiation.

According to Santopietro, physically killing Canada geese on site is “a nightmare” in terms of publicity and blowback from animal welfare advocates. He referred twice to Darien-based Friends of Animals and told the commission: “It’s funny: They like what we do because we don’t touch the geese. They hate the egg-addling part. But my defense to that is: ‘Then can you tell me that you don’t eat chicken eggs?’ ”

Parks Superintendent John Howe said he will put in a request for the balance of the Geese Relief contract—the money would become available July 1 if it survives this budget cycle, and would be paid out over the following nine months—of $15,000 for geese management.

It isn’t clear how many years the program is expected to last or at what point less maintenance (and money for Geese Relief) would be needed to keep Mead Park at an acceptable level for the commission.

Santopietro said he would meet again with parks officials for when what’s needed shifts from ridding Mead of geese to maintaining a goose-free zone.

“Just to disrupt the breeding cycle, it can take years,” he said.

One parent of a NCHS baseball player, Robert Jones, introduced Santopietro and told commissioners the conditions at Mead Park are, “very simply put, pretty much unacceptable.”

Jones said that parents of baseball players are seeking to partner with the town “not solely for the purpose of the baseball field, but for enhancing the whole experience of Mead Park.”

2 thoughts on “Parks Officials Support Scaring Canada Geese Out of Mead, Disrupting Birds’ Breeding Cycles

  1. In the past, the problem has been that when the geese leave Mead Park they end up in Kiwanis Park. There are approximately 65 geese that sleep along the Five Mile River when it snows.

  2. I have noticed many places (high school fields) that broadcast frightened geese noises on loudspeakers. This seems very effective from the places I’ve seen it used. Apart from possible neighbor noise complaints (minimal as usually done in the afternoon), this might be an easier solution.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *