Delaying goose egg addling in Silver Lake Park was considered after the day and time of planned volunteer efforts were announced in a Post Bulletin column Saturday.
“Paul (Widman, Rochester’s director of parks and recreation) is concerned with volunteer safety,” Park Board President Linnea Archer said after plans for a column by Rochester resident Greg Munson were revealed.
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Munson, the former Post Bulletin Nature Nut columnist, penned an opinion column questioning the humanity of plans to treat goose eggs in four Rochester parks. In the column, he listed the time and place of the first effort.
The column generated criticism of the plan online, but Widman said the work will go ahead as scheduled.
Addling is the process of manipulating eggs so they won’t hatch, which is done to manage the goose population.
Volunteers are expected to do the work as planned on Wednesday.
Muson, who initially volunteered for the effort, said he started to question the process enlisted by the city, even though it is supported by the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
The plan calls for volunteers to conduct a float test on any incubating eggs in a nest. If the eggs start to float, they have been incubating for more than 13 weeks and will be returned untreated. Eggs that don’t float are considered new enough to be treated, which will involve covering them with corn oil to end further development.
“That means a half-developed gosling egg can be oiled, after which there will be a handful of days, I’m guessing, not minutes or hours that that gosling will be suffocating before it dies, if it does die,” Munson said, adding that the typical incubation period is 28 days. “I don’t consider that procedure to be humane.”
The planned addling was approved in December, and Munson said he began advocating for changing the process as the work approached. He wanted to leave two untreated eggs in each nest and replace some eggs with ceramic eggs.
He outlined his concerns during a late March discussion with Tom Keefe, president of Canada Goose Management Inc, which has performed similar operations in several Minnesota counties, and said he believed the consultant working with the city’s parks department was on board.
Keefe said he told Munson he would follow the direction of the city staff, which resulted in a compromise to leave at least six eggs intentionally untreated in the park.
“My understanding is Paul is going to authorize us to leave six eggs, which will be basically three nests with two eggs in them,” he said.
Munson estimates 20 to 25 nests are in Silver Lake Park, with an average of six eggs apiece.
Widman said he doesn’t believe the addling effort will eliminate the sight of baby geese from Silver Lake Park.
“It is safe to say there will be goslings throughout Rochester and Silver Lake Park this spring,” he said. “We obviously will not be treating nests on private property adjacent to Silver Lake Park or any other private property. We are likely to miss nests on park property.”
Park Board member Dick Dale, who had signed up to volunteer but cited second thoughts following Munson’s concerns, said he’s aware of at least three nests on nearby Rochester Public Utilities property that will be untouched.
“They are all over,” he said, adding that other volunteers are joining Munson in backing out of the effort.
Park board members acknowledge that the number of eggs treated or untreated was discussed when authorizing the work, leaving some with the impression that eggs could be intentionally skipped.
“We never defined it,” said board member Angela Gupta, a University of Minnesota Extension forester, who has studied wildlife management.
She said she envisioned leaving two eggs in each nest but added how the process would meet goals was not defined.
“It’s not really about the number of geese,” she said. “It’s about the amount of conflict with geese.”
Gupta has initiated an online poll to gauge public views related to the geese and management practices.
Keefe said that reducing the conflict, whether related to personal interaction or the health impact of fecal material in the parks and lakes, would be difficult if two eggs were left to hatch in each nest
“It would defeat the purpose and be a less significant control method,” he said, adding that data collected can be used to adjust practices in future years.
Laura Settle, who generated a list of 34 volunteers for the effort, said the goal isn’t to drive geese from parks.
“Even if we wanted to, there’s no way we could eradicate the goose population,” she said. “This is solely about having a socially acceptable goose population.”
Volunteers will be treating eggs in Silver Lake and Cascade Lake parks, with return trips to monitor progress. Keefe will lead a smaller team of paid workers to conduct similar activities at Foster Arend and Soldiers Field parks, as well as the Soldiers Field Golf Course.