February 24, 2018
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Geese take over Auburn beach

Amber Waterman | Sun Journal
Amber Waterman | Sun Journal
A pair of Canada geese rest on the shore of Lake Auburn at the Outlet Beach on Thursday. The popular swimming hole has been rendered virtually useless by the mess left from the roosting geese.
By Scott Taylor, Sun Journal

AUBURN, Maine — Geese have taken over the Lake Auburn outlet beach, closed last summer because city councilors cut the funding for lifeguards.

The birds have made quite a mess — and wildlife officials say they plan to addle or suffocate the eggs to keep the flock from growing and to reduce the amount of feces on the waterfront.

“Canada geese deposit a minimum of a half-pound of fecal matter per day, per goose,” said Ben Nugent, wildlife biologist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services Department.

“For the outlet beach, we’ve observed 90 geese using it on a daily basis,” Nugent said. “So you add that up, and that’s a minimum of 45 pounds per day, every day.”

City recreation and watershed officials and federal wildlife officials could be ready to reclaim the outlet beach and make it safe for people to swim in once again.

“It’s a nice little beach and one of the only public swimming areas in the city,” said Ravi Sharma, recreation director for the city. “The biggest step is getting rid of the geese.”

The plan involves finding the nests around the outlet beach. Nugent said geese have already started nesting on the beach and on the surrounding ground.

“They like that area because it’s grassy and has a nice gentle slope with water,” Nugent said. “Basically, they like it for the same reasons people do.”

Wildlife officials would addle the goose eggs, shaking them by hand to break the yolks. That would kill the eggs without alerting the adults. The parent geese would maintain the nest, protecting and incubating the addled eggs, instead of laying new ones to replace the dead ones.

Eggs also can be sprayed with corn oil, which clogs the eggs’ pores and starves them of oxygen.

That would keep new generations of Lake Auburn geese from being born and keep the flock from growing.

The next step would be to round up the adults and move them somewhere else. Geese moult each July, losing enough feathers to render them flightless and easier to catch.

“We’d go through the state Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and relocate them someplace where they won’t be a nuisance,” Nugent said. “Most of the time, that’s enough to move them away. We’d band the birds we move, just to find out if they’re coming back.”

Swimming is prohibited in Lake Auburn because it is the water supply for Lewiston and Auburn. Water from the lake drains off under Center Street to the outlet pond, where swimming is allowed.

The beach normally opens each summer for public swimming and for summer youth recreation programs. Sharma said it’s not scheduled to open this summer, either.

“We’d need to get in and clean the beach and the water to make sure it’s healthy,” Sharma said. The Auburn and Lewiston water departments have offered to test the outlet’s water once the geese are gone.

John Storer, superintendent of the Auburn Water District, said the water districts and the Lake Auburn Watershed Protection Commission contract with Nugent and the USDA to keep gulls off Lake Auburn.

“The idea is to include the outlet in that contract,” Storer said. “With a ban on swimming in Lake Auburn itself, it’s a good-neighbor policy to encourage an alternative spot so people can swim responsibly.”

Nugent said egg-addling is a nationally accepted practice for dealing with nuisance flocks of geese, but people need a federal permit from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service to do it.

“If people really want to help, they shouldn’t feed the geese,” Nugent said.

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