Rochester’s Parks and Recreation Department is responding to community concerns as plans to addle goose eggs in four parks continue.
“We recognize the concerns and questions raised by community members,” Parks and Recreation Director Paul Widman said in a statement released Tuesday morning. “We have been and are committed to following the recommendations of the Humane Society of the United States. The Park Board and department value wildlife and we will continue to ensure we are taking a thoughtful and humane approach to wildlife management.”
Egg addling is any practice used to prevent an egg from hatching. The two preferred practices are oiling the eggs or replacing them with ceramic eggs.
During a related conversation with the Rochester CIty Council on Monday, Widman said misinformation has fueled added concern.
“The Humane Society contacted me because there is some information someone shared with them that we are exterminating geese once they hatched and that is definitely not our intention at all,” he said. “There is a lot of misleading information that got to them.”
He said the discussion was a chance to confirm that the city’s plan adheres to Humane Society guidelines.
The statement released Tuesday provides information attributed to Humane Society representatives with links to Rochester. The statements are:
The Humane Society considers the addling of Canada goose eggs as a humane and effective method for controlling the population growth rate of Canada geese, as long as the addling is performed according to its standards.
The Humane Society considers addling as humane only when the eggs have been incubated for 14 or fewer days . Before 14 days of incubation, studies have shown that the embryo are not developed enough to feel pain. Addling of eggs that have been incubated for more than 14 days is considered inhumane; these eggs should be left alone and not addled.
The Humane Society recognizes three techniques for addling Canada goose eggs as humane: oiling (fully covering the eggs with corn oil), removal (removing the eggs completely from incubation and disposing of in accordance with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service regulations), and replacement (replacing the eggs with “dummy” eggs).
Federal law protects geese, but there are provisions for management of resident geese on public and private lands. Egg addling is recommended by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society for the control of resident geese flocks.
Widman and others have said it's hard to determine exact geese numbers in Rochester, due to the fact that some stay in the area all year and others migrate through the region.
The annual Christmas Bird Count conducted by the Zumbro Valley Audubon Society found 5,405 in Rochester last year, up from 4,244 the year before, but down from an eight-year high of 9,884 in 2017. Audubon volunteers have noted in the past that several factors can affect their counts on a year-to-year basis.
Laura Settle, the volunteer coordinating help for the egg addling effort, said the goal isn't to eliminate the birds, but to keep them at a socially acceptable number since crowding adds to health hazards and increased conflicts with park users.
“We don’t want to have a lot of resident geese here," she said, noting most geese naturally only spend part of the year in Rochester. "It’s not natural for them to not migrate."
Widman said migratory geese nest in their native locations, which are the Arctic and temperate regions of North America. They visit Rochester from September to approximately February, before flying home to nest.
Resident geese are the descendants of migratory geese captured in the 1900s to use as live decoys or domestic stock. It's resulted in generations that stay in the same region year-round.
It's the resident geese that are targeted in the procedures outlined for local volunteers under the guidance of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Volunteers will be working in Silver Lake and Cascade Lake parks with representatives from Canada Goose Management Inc., which also will be treating eggs in Foster Arends and Soldiers Field parks under a $1,800 contract.
Widman said the Park Board has been discussing goose management options since 2018, following concerns raised by neighbors and users of Silver Lake Park. He said early discussions ruled out the use of a goose roundup or hunting to control the population.
The Parks and Recreation Department has created a frequently asked questions document to address concerns and dispel wrong information circulating in the public.