The village of Hagaman established a law this week that would penalize people caught feeding Canada geese.
Mayor Martin Natoli said the village is hoping a fine of up to $200 may dissuade people from feeding the birds, which have been fouling the ground at the village park near the Chuctanunda Creek.
“The geese population’s been probably increasing for the last four years so they’re becoming a nuisance, and it’s tough with all the droppings around,” Natoli said.
Natoli said the biggest concern with the mess is the potential health effects on children who frequent the playground situated between Haskell and Chuctanunda streets.
Feeding the geese might contribute to the birds’ continued presence in the park, Natoli said.
“They feel sorry for them, and they’re beautiful birds. But outside of that, they [leave] a lot of droppings around, which is not very good healthwise. We’re trying to nip it in the bud,” Natoli said.
Under the law, people caught feeding the birds could be given an appearance ticket by the code enforcement officer or a deputy from the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, Natoli said.
People often feed bread, corn, popcorn or table scraps to the waterfowl, but doing so can actually hurt the birds, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Artificial feeding, as the DEC calls it, can result in poor nutrition, water pollution, overcrowding and the spread of disease. In a natural setting, waterfowl like Canada geese eat aquatic plants, invertebrates and grains, and the bread and popcorn people feed them are low in protein, according to the DEC.
Artificial feeding has been cited as playing a role in several waterfowl die-offs in New York, including the deaths of 2,000 mallard and black ducks that caught “duck virus enteritis” in central New York, according to DEC.
Geese and other waterfowl that become accustomed to people feeding them gradually become dependent on handouts. They can become aggressive and lose their fear of people as well, according to DEC.
In New York state, there were only a few Canada geese nesting in the wild roughly a century ago, but the population started to grow in the 1950s, according to the DEC.
The village of Scotia has been battling a stubborn flock of Canada geese in and around Collins Park for years. Their droppings fouled the park and drove up bacteria levels in the lake to the point that authorities shut down the village beach.
An organization of volunteers called “Save the Geese” leases a border collie to chase the birds away from Collins Park. Village officials have said the dog has been working — but at a cost of $500 a month.
Natoli said Hagaman installed some fake wooden foxes in hopes of scaring the Canada geese away, but it didn’t work.
“It seemed to work for a while, but they’re pretty smart animals. After a while they realize that they’re not moving,” Natoli said.
The village is also researching other means to get rid of the geese, including a repellent Natoli said can be used in the springtime.