116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS - It was a harsh start to the week for hundreds of honking and hissing Canada geese.
In an effort to control the goose population in Cedar Rapids - which has grown to more than 2,000 - 446 birds were rounded up Monday from grassy river banks and golf courses, herded upstream on the Cedar River and funneled into a pen at Robbins Lake.
Of the total, 285 gosling were banded as male or female at the ankle and relocated to the Hawkeye Wildlife Management Area in Johnson County. Officials from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources plan to monitor if the young geese return. A more grim fate met the 161 older fowl, which were to be slaughtered at Newhall Locker & Processing with the promise the meat feeds the hungry via local food pantries.
'We've been trying population management with non-lethal methods for 20 years,” said Daniel Gibbins, Cedar Rapids parks superintendent. 'Over population of geese is not good for the species and when there's growing conflict you need population reduction.”
Geese have knocked cyclists down, impeded travel on Interstate 380 and local roads, and the city spends $20,000 a year to clean up their waste, Gibbins said.
The Cedar Rapids City Council passed a resolution supporting the roundup last month and voted last week to allow shotgun hunting of waterfowl on private, undeveloped lands within city limits south of Highway 30 and west of Interstate 380, in accordance with Iowa DNR rules.
Iowa DNR provides permitted hunters open season for hunting waterfowl several times from September to January.
'They are a public resource,” said Greg Harris, a wildlife depredation biologist for the Iowa DNR, who helped oversee the roundup. 'Why not let people hunt them. They will use the meat.”
The Canada geese had been cliff dwellers along the Missouri River before introduction to the Cedar Rapids area by a citizen several decades ago, Harris said. It's not surprising they have multiplied and likely would have come on their own, he added.
'They have water, mowed grass and no predators,” Harris said, noting geese feed on young grass. 'What do you think is going to happen.”
City officials logged two comments in support of the ordinance and none against, and opinion pieces published in The Gazette included three in support and three or four against, said Sven Leff, Cedar Rapids parks and recreation director. The city received no opposition from animal rights groups, such as the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, he said.
The roundup was timed during molting of fly feathers when most geese can't fly, Gibbins said. Some first-year geese molt at different times and a few were seen flying away Monday. At least one broke free and literally led an official on a wild-goose chase. That goose was eventually captured.
The round up was also timed in hopes goslings hadn't imprinted here, Gibbins said.
'When they learn to fly, they think it's their home,” Gibbins added.
Passersby stopped along Ellis Boulevard to watch Monday morning and had mixed feelings.
'I think it is wrong; I disagree,” said Jeff Vincent, 58, of Cedar Rapids, who took notice during a bike ride. 'These geese are imprinted here. This is their home. They are cool creatures. They mate for life. The city should have a found a better way of doing this.”
Vincent said he hasn't had negative experiences, and even took it in stride when an adult goose flew up and flapped its wings at his back when he got too close to two goslings.
Others said they thought Monday's roundup is a good idea.
'It seems like the best way to go about it,” said Mike Baker, 34, of Cedar Rapids, who applauded donating the meat as food. 'You can't move them and expect them not to come back.”
DONATING THE MEAT
Harris said the DNR has been involved in other roundups throughout the state in recent years, including those in Des Moines, Waverly and Ottumwa. Des Moines also donates the meat to food pantries, he said.
Jennifer Wagaman, office administrator for the Cedar Hills Community Church, which operates the Open Hands Food Pantry, said she is not aware if her organization has been contacted about taking goose meat but they'd 'definitely be interested in it” if it is properly packaged and labeled.
'We are always in need of meat,” she said.
The Hawkeye Area Community Action Program, or HACAP, is to distribute the meat to local food pantries on a first-come-first-served basis, said Linda Gorkow. director of the HACAP food reservoir.
The meat is to come in 1-pound ground portions and isl likely to be frozen, Gorkow said. She said Iowa DNR officials selected the Newhall processor, which is certified by the American Association of Meat Processors, and the distribution process has been approved by Linn County Public Health.
'They've approved it to be healthy and safe if it is following the proper processing,” Gorkow said. 'Our role is to help feed hungry people, and any way we can, we do.”
Gorkow did not know how the animals were rendered. The Gazette was unable to reach a representative from the Newhall processor.
Heidi Peck, environmental quality supervisor for Linn County Public Health, said her agency was satisfied upon learning the processing was occurring at a licensed facility. Officials at Iowa DNR, Linn County Public Health and Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship say they don't have oversight in inspecting the meat before distribution.
Goose Watch NYC, an advocacy group that emerged after public officials removed geese from a local park in Brooklyn, and had them gassed to death, states in cases of donation to a food pantry typically 1 pound of a 10- to 15-pound bird winds up getting donated as meat, usually ground, and goose meat is often donated to food banks untested with a warning not to consume the meat more than twice per month.