RANGELEY, Maine — Nothing makes Rangeley Town Manager Tim Pellerin happier than welcoming visitors to his western Maine town.
Just not some of the ones arriving by air.
Nestled along Rangeley Lake, the town’s year-round population of 1,200 swells to more than 7,000 in the summer. The same things that bring all those visitors — the lake and surrounding open, natural spaces — also attracts flocks of migrating Canada geese, which are more than happy to drop in for an extended visit.
And, like those annoying guests from away who overstay their welcome, the geese just don’t when to leave.
“The problem is bad enough,” Pellerin said. “The geese are in the town park, which is really their natural habitat.”
Pellerin and his fellow town officials would be happy to take a live-and-let-live approach with the geese, but the trouble is the wild fowl are messy guests.
“They eat around the shore of the lake in the short grass and then defecate all over the park,” he said. “We tried cleaning up after them by sweeping the park two to three times a week, but it was not working.”
According to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s website, a single Canada goose can produce 1 to 3 pounds of solid waste per day.
According to DIF&W, Canada geese are not considered a significant source of infectious disease, though the droppings can cause water quality concerns in municipal lakes and ponds.
The parasite schistosome or cercarial dermatitis, the cause of “swimmer’s itch,” can be spread by goose droppings, according to DIF&W.
The geese also are protected under state and federal law and may be hunted and killed only during the regular season.
In extreme nuscience goose situations, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may issue special out-of-season hunting permits.
Pellerin does not wish the Rangeley geese any harm, he just wanted them out of the park.
Cue the scare-dogs.
Actually, cue the life-size, plastic coyote silhouettes used by hunters.
“Those coyote cut-outs are on poles and spin around with the wind,” Pellerin said. “Geese hate things that move suddenly.”
But geese, which are very adaptable to human surroundings, can get used to anything pretty quickly, so Pellerin’s parks and recreation staff were moving the cut-outs around the park all summer.
“Those cut outs worked well, for the most part,” he said.”They kept the geese guessing and uncomfortable, so they moved out of the park.”
Pellerin’s crew also strung twine several inches off the ground around areas attractive to the geese.
“The geese like to be where they can walk out of the water to the land,” he said. “They won’t fly over the string if it’s in their way.”
The pretend coyotes and low-string fence did not get rid of all the geese, Pellerin said, but it greatly cut down on the problem, without harming the birds themselves.
“What some experts have told me is we need to be on this in the spring,” he said. “If we interrupt their natural habitat when they are first flying through, they will move on, and that will take care of a lot of the problem.”
Pellerin said the town is finishing up the first year of a two-year, $900,000 project at the park aimed at improving water drainage and public facilities, so if his crew does not have to deal with cleaning after geese, he is very happy.
“Our goal is really to move [the geese] out in early summer,” he said. “The park is really the gem of our downtown [and] where people gather all summer to meet, recreate and enjoy all kinds of events.”
Just don’t feed the geese.