2016-09-08 / Outdoors

Geese a problem in Northport

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

GEESE CONGREGATE near a pond and creek on private property off Lakeshore Drive in Centerville Township. GEESE CONGREGATE near a pond and creek on private property off Lakeshore Drive in Centerville Township. If there’s something strange in your neighborhood, who you gonna call?

Goose Busters.

At least that’s the plan for the Village of Northport, which may reach out to a Holly-based business with that name next spring to round up and relocate nuisance geese near the marina.

“We’ve had an extraordinary amount of geese it seems like,” said administrative coordinator Barb Von Voigtlander. “We’ve had a lot of complaints from residents about droppings on the beach and have tried various methods of removing the goose poop and keeping the geese off.

“None of them work for very long.”

Goose Busters may be contracted to gather up geese for about $10 each. Based on an estimate, that would cost Northport about $1,000.

According to the Goose Busters website, geese are corralled, crated and transported by a properly permitted private nuisance wildlife control firm.

Von Voigtlander said decoys and other methods didn’t pan out.

“There was a story about grape Kool- Aid being a deterrent,” Von Voigtlander said. “That didn’t work.”

This summer, elevated E. coli levels have prompted beach advisories and closures at a number of Leelanau County beaches, including Northport.

The health department issued a pair of warnings, for example, at Elmwood Township Greilickville Harbor Beach and Suttons Bay Park last week.

Are geese to blame? Von Voigtlander said the closure in Northport was more likely related to storm-water runoff.

But what about the beaches in Greilickville and Suttons Bay?

“Absolutely, waterfowl are a problem at beaches,” said Sarah U’Ren, program director at Watershed Center Grand Traverse Bay. “What you get is increased numbers of ducks, sea gulls and geese at beaches that go to the bathroom all over the beach.

“Then you get a rain event and that washes off into the water. Sometimes it’s not a rain event; these two beaches posted (last Wednesday) haven’t had rain since (Aug. 27). It could just be waves washing along the shore coupled with a strong north wind. With the way those beaches are situated on the bay, that mixes up the sediment.”

U’Ren said storm-water runoff is a problem in Traverse City, but that’s not the case in Greilickville or Suttons Bay.

Waterfowl management can be tricky, U’Ren said. Sometimes it’s a matter of how the beaches are groomed.

“Greilickville, their beach has a lot of wet sand because it’s not a very sloped beach,” she said. “What you get is a larger area of wet sand near the water. That wet sand can carry the bacteria from the E. coli more easily to the water.”

Peter Moon, harbor master at the Elmwood Township Marina, said he has not seen as many geese this year.

Still, birds are to blame for Elmwood’s recent beach closure, Moon said, with geese the main problem.

“This year is the year of the duck down here at Elmwood,” he said.

Suttons Bay Village Manager Wally Delamater said he hasn’t noticed a particularly high number of geese.

If the beach is busy and active, Delamater said, the geese steer clear.

U’Ren was asked for tips in deterring geese from beaches. One key, she said, is to keep the geese from congregating. Well-trained border collies get the job done. Certain landscape features can serve as scare tactics, as well.

“Have a nice buffer along the shoreline; a 5-foot buffer of longer grass or shrubs,” U’Ren said. “Geese don’t like that — taller, native grasses.”

It’s also important to reduce feeding of waterfowl, she said, because free food keeps the birds coming back.

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