for Montclair Local

After installing $4,487 in specialized amber lights to keep Canada geese from building nests at Edgemont Memorial Park, Montclair may have to bring back border collies to chase them off and egg addling for population control. The lights, installed in the spring, are not keeping the population at bay. 

For nearly a decade, the township has used both dog hazing and egg addling. In the spring after the Montclair Environment Commission explored and suggested other options, the township ordered the lights from Away With Geese, a company specializing in products to repel Canada geese. Seven lights, with two backups, were installed around the pond before the start of nesting season in early March. The lights appear as predator eyes to the geese and deter them from staying at night. The geese may graze during the day, but do not become overnight guests.

With the installation of the lights at Edgemont, the town stopped the use of the hazing and the egg addling.

William Wallach president of the Friends of Edgemont Park contends that the lights alone are not working, and geese droppings on the grass and walkways prevent adults and children from using the recreational space.

“We have 14 new goslings that are lifelong residents and not paying taxes. You can’t walk into the park unless it’s scrubbed and cleaned. I’m not saying the blinking lights have failed but in of itself, it’s not keeping the population in check. Address the issue now as opposed to a year from now when it will get worse,” Wallach told the council at a December conference meeting.

Canada Geese, despite township efforts, are a common sight in Edgemont Memorial Park.
Canada Geese, despite township efforts, are a common sight in Edgemont Memorial Park.

An adult Canada goose can weigh up to 20 pounds and defecates more than twice its weight daily, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

The fowl took up permanent residence at Edgemont Park and Yantacaw fields decades ago. The Montclair Environmental Commission had recommended using the solar powered light devices, as well as landscape changes, a “liquid fence” derived from grape extract, and a contractor to clean up the poop as a more humane way to handle the goose population.

Mayor Robert Jackson said he didn’t think the lights are working in addressing the totality of the issue. “I’ve seen more geese than I’ve seen in a long time in this park. The intentions of using a humane approach are good but it has got to work. My impression is the lights are not as effective as other tools used,” Jackson said. 

He said the goose issue will be revisited to maybe use a combination of control options.

Councilwoman Robin Schlager said she will coordinate a discussion between the parks and recreation department and the MEC to address the issue.

The town spent $9,000 during a four-month period in 2018 on geese control. 

Metuchen-based Goose Control Technology has conducted hazing and egg addling. The company also did two roundups [in 2007 and 2017] of around 25 geese each time, after which the birds were killed. Under state wildlife laws, captured geese must be humanely euthanized for two reasons: to prevent the geese from returning to where they were captured and prevent the spread of diseases such as avian influenza to other birds and wildlife if the geese were to be relocated. 

The town also contracted with Geese Chasers North Jersey, a firm that uses dogs a few times a week to chase the geese away, January through April. When the geese lose their feathers [molt] and can’t fly from May to July,and  the hazing ceases. The geese shelter near water until their feathers grow back. 

Both companies did not return calls.

Egg addling is done in April and May and entails either puncturing the egg or covering it with vegetable oil to prevent hatching. The geese lay two to eight eggs per nest. The incubation period is 25 days.

MEC member Suzanne Aptman advocated for non-lethal geese control methods, and disputed criticism over of lights’ effectiveness. After the lights were installed, only six geese stayed and had likely already nested or did so outside the lights’ range—resulting in the 14 goslings, she said. 

Montclair can make parks less attractive to geese through habitat modification, she said, and she suggests addling only of non-viable eggs — testing if they float in a bucket of water, as per Geese Peace suggestions. She welcomed discussions with the town to continue addressing the issue.  

“There are ways to address complaints around goose droppings, which is the core issue that folks have, that doesn't require destroying their eggs, harassing tactics and gassing geese to death. We need to continue to discover, test and implement humane, non-lethal approaches,” she said.  

Canada geese can present environmental issues by frequently overgrazing. Rutgers University estimates the population at 81,000 in New Jersey and over one million in the eastern United States, overpopulating the regions where they flock to campuses, lawns and open land near water in urban and suburban landscapes. 

Then there’s the poop. “It results in stormwater runoff bringing nitrogen intrusion into waterways,” said Gray Russell, a council liaison to the MEC at a past meeting. “Geese live around water so the poop gets into our local streams and eventually into the Passaic River.”

The human and geese conflict began in the 1960s when Canada geese were used as live decoys. To counter the threat of extinction, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and state wildlife agencies began repopulating efforts that ceased in the 1990s. The geese became permanent residents of the United States, raising families and living in open green spaces near water.