Geese bring gaggle of joy and woes

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, February 4, 2004

Mary Ellis looks over her lawn and the lake at Openwood Plantation, where Canada geese visit regularly.(Jenny Sevcik The Vicksburg Post)

[2/4/04]Geese swimming sedately on a lake can add immeasurably to the beauty of a housing development.

Geese pulling up grass, leaving oily droppings and honking like a herd of Volkswagens, however, are not so serene.

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Mary Ellis, a resident of Openwood Plantation northeast of Vicksburg, is among residents who don’t mind the flocks of Canada geese that live on the subdivision’s lakes but wouldn’t mind if there were fewer of them.

“I have had up to 50 at one time,” she said, adding that the population may actually be smaller.

Ellis lives on Windy Lake Drive on the banks of McCall Lake. Her yard seems to be one of the favored locations for the geese to roost and rest.

Not your usual yard birds, Canadas may weigh up to 24 pounds and have a wingspan up to 6 feet.

For many years, few Canada geese were seen in the Southern United States because waterfowl refuges in southern Illinois and other states provided the open water they sought.

In the 1980s, the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks obtained geese captured in overpopulated northern areas and transplanted them to Mississippi. In this area, many of the birds were released on Eagle Lake. Within a couple of years after being released the geese spread out and began being seen on other lakes, including some in subdivisions and became permanent residents.

Ellis, who has lived in Openwood almost since the subdivision was created northeast of Vicksburg, has lived on Windy Lake Drive since the early 1980s. She’s enjoyed and been aggravated by the geese for about 15 years.

The birds’ droppings made the area under a couple of large oaks at the lake edge unsafe and unsanitary for youngsters to play.

“I have also had to wash my driveway off,” she said, adding many times she has seen the geese nearly to Windy Lake Drive.

“I’ve also seen them in my carport,” she said.

Another neighbor said retrieving her mail was hazardous since the droppings could make her slip and fall.

Ellis said she and her neighbors have tried many things to discourage the geese from roosting and hanging around on their property.

“When my husband was alive, we had dogs, but they soon got tired of chasing them,” Ellis said.

John Ellis, a former district attorney and circuit judge, also found a product on the Internet, which was supposed to keep geese away.

“He bought 15 or 20 gallons of it and put it out,” she said.

The substance was supposed to taste bitter to the geese, and they were supposed to leave after tasting it once.

“They’d eat it, shake their heads and go drink some water,” she continued. “They’d be right back the next day.”

A neighbor, who has since died, even tried an electric fence without long-lasting success. But, Ellis said, the geese soon learned to fly over the wire into the yard.

She said they even talked to someone with the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks but were unable to get any advice on how to discourage the birds.

And, Ellis said, the alternative of shooting some of the birds to reduce the population is not an option. Even though Mississippi has an open season on Canada geese in the fall, subdivision regulations do not allow the discharge of firearms.