Gassing geese stirs controversy

Residents, activists question condo complex's animal control tactic

From left: Angelique Gorham, Rachel Ogden, David Sauder and Bobby Bates stand by Fries Mill Road to protest geese extermination at the Meadows Condominium Association on July 6. (Anthony J. Mazziotti III/The Sun)

What’s bad for the goose is bad for the gander.

By 10 a.m. on July 6, more than 15 residents and animal rights activists formed a peaceful protest on Fries Mill Road on the main drag to the Meadows Condominium Association on behalf of the condominium complex’s annual round up and “management” of geese.

Barbara Spector, Meadows resident and activist, said the condo association first needs to obtain a permit from the Department of Fish and Wildlife allowing it to manage the goose population. From there, they can hire a company to round up the geese during molting season. From there, Spector alleges the company will either gas the geese or shock them.

The property manager of the Meadows Condominium Association could not be reached for comment on the matter.

Spector said the inaugural mission caused upward of 200 casualties – in recent years the number has been closer to 20.

“To me, it doesn’t matter. It’s not humane,” she said of killing geese. “There are a lot of humane ways to get the populations down. The population is down now. There was no reason in the beginning to do the killing. They could have done all humane methods, I talked to them about from the beginning. I had people come and talk to them [the condominium board], we’ve given them literature, numbers to call, tons of information about humane solutions to get the populations down. They’re deciding to renew the contract every year to do the killing instead.”

Spector provided a flier that stated it cost $5,000 to remove 19 geese, a total of $263 per goose.

David Sauder, the president of the Animal Rights Activists of New Jersey, attended the protest. He and Spector agreed there were humane practices that could have been done, including landscape management and egg addling.

“There’s ways to plant different plans around the lakes in the complex that are discouraging for geese because they have to have a direct sightline to see predators. If there’s plants between the water and the upper land, then the geese can’t see their predators and they’re less likely to establish a home on these lakes,” Sauder described.

As for egg addling, this is the practice of finding fertilized eggs and terminating the embryo inside before returning it to the nest. This tricks the geese into thinking their eggs are fertile – stopping them from laying new eggs.

Another method suggested by Spector and Sauder is the use of dogs, such as border collies. By releasing the hounds, so to speak, the dogs chase the geese away from an area to deter them from nesting.

Rachel Ogden, an animal rights activist, believes humans need to learn to coexist with the other species on the planet.

“We’re not the only species who live here,” she stated. “The geese call this home as well. To create manicured lawns and a perfect habitat for them and expect them to not make their home here is absurd. I’m here to stand up against injustice. Once again, it’s really important to coexist with other species.”

Protestor Angelique Gorham doubles as a wildlife rehabilitator. She assists parentless goslings and nurses injured geese with broken wings back to health.

“We take all this time and spend our own money and do all these things to help them and they’re just going to round them up and gas them? It stinks. It’s a sucky situation to be in especially because they’re being cowardly about it and doing it at a time where they can’t do anything for themselves,” she said. “They can’t fly off, they don’t have their flight feathers. It’s a shame that someone can be that terrible of a person to do such a thing like that. It’s just mind-blowing.”

Finding a humane solution is of the utmost importance to Spector and the rest of the protestors. She is on record attending meetings of all kinds spreading the word about humane geese management tactics. She said the complex shouldn’t be doing anything to actively remove the geese because the numbers are low, but she recommended safe practices to keep them that way. The complex boasts three retention ponds that make for an ideal nesting place for the geese. Some other practices she listed, other than the ones above, were the use of supersonic sound, which is done through solar power to create a sound that bothers geese which will deter them from nesting, use of fencing and goose deterrent lawn sprays.

“Keep doing those things over the years, we don’t need to be rounding up and killing them,” she said.

Her call to action is simple – if you live in the Meadows Condominium Association come out to the next meeting on July 22 at 6:30 p.m. If you don’t live in the Meadows and want your voice heard, she recommended writing letters and calling Associa Mid-Atlantic, the Meadow’s Condominium Association’s property management service at (888) 884-8490 to voice an opinion. Letters can be addressed to the Meadows Condominium Association at 1550 Briarwood Court Sewell, NJ 08080.

“It’s an educational demonstration,” she said of the protest. “I want people to be aware.”