116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — They toyed with the idea of bringing in border collies to give chase. Instead, they deployed remote-control robots and conducted annual roundups with nets.
Despite the efforts of Cedar Rapids officials, Canada geese — and their ubiquitous droppings that foul city sidewalks and trails and raise health concerns — persisted.
Tuesday evening, the City Council decided it was time to stop being so gentle. Members took the first step toward coming at the geese with both barrels.
The council unanimously gave initial approval to opening a swathe of rural city land to goose and other waterfowl hunting, in accordance with state regulations. Council member Scott Olson was absent for the vote.
Member Ann Poe offered appreciation for efforts to control the overpopulation.
'As someone who's using those trails (by the river) quite frequently, there's no way to dodge droppings,' she said.
Opening lands to waterfowl hunting is part of a broader city goose control strategy that also may include a plan to round up as many as 400 geese, take them to a slaughter house for processing and give the meat to local food banks.
The council has asked the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for a recommendation, but has not voted on such a plan yet.
Lia Pontarelli, director of development and communications at the Salvation Army, said the idea has not reached her organization, but she was in favor.
'We're always looking for different ways to have food come in to use for our food pantry and our meal program,' she said in an interview.
The Linn County Community Food Bank was aware of the idea, but a representative declined comment on it.
Daniel Gibbins, superintendent of Cedar Rapids parks and recreation, told the council Tuesday that city staff estimates more than 2,000 geese are local to Cedar Rapids — which leads to an annual expense of $15,000 to $20,000 for the Parks and Recreation Department and local golf courses.
Greg Harris, a wildlife depredation biologist with the DNR, said the city has been dealing with goose overpopulation since the 1990s.
Cedar Rapids is too good a habitat for Canada geese, Harris said. Access to water, as well as lawn clippings from frequent mowing along the river, encourage the birds to stick around.
Gibbins said the city still plans to continue other efforts, including relocating young geese before flight patterns are imprinted and chasing them off with scare tactics. He said staff were also looking into sterilizing eggs by coating them with oil.
The proposed hunting area inside the city limits is south of Highway 30 and west of Interstate 380, and is made up of roughly 3,000 acres. The area is rural and all owned privately, Gibbins said, so hunters would have to comply with state regulations and have permission to hunt from the owners.
One resident who was part of efforts years ago to bring the birds to the city said he was in favor of managing the geese population, but didn't necessarily support hunting them.
Al Weaver, a previous local and state chairman of waterfowl conservation group Ducks Unlimited, said he's not a voice against it, but it's 'not my first choice.'
From 1996 to 2015, between 300 to 600 geese were moved annually from Cedar Rapids to other areas, according to city documents.
Weaver said in an interview these geese tend not to return, since they are moved before they can fly. Once they learn to fly, they imprint on the area and return annually to nest, hence the difficulty of moving adult geese.
Years ago, the idea of coping with a goose overpopulation seemed far-fetched.
The giant Canada goose initially was written off as extinct around the 1940s and 50s, Weaver said.
'It had gone the way of the dodo bird and the passenger pigeon and the dinosaurs: it was extinct,' he said.
But scientists found a small group that still existed in the 1960s, which kick-started programs to reintroduce the species. Cedar Rapids became a nursery.
Weaver was the chairman of CR Goose Flock Inc., a group that purchased giant Canada geese from northeast Iowa. According a Gazette article in 1982, the group was working to introduce and raise several mated pairs of geese in the city.
Weaver said the geese were introduced in areas away from people, including Cedar Lake at that time. Over the years with development, people moved into the area.
'The people caused the problem,' Weaver said. 'The goose didn't cause the problem.'