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Greg Munson: Is city's goose egg destruction plan humane?

While I might be able to support reducing the number of geese at Silver Lake, it is the inhumane method chosen that concerns me and many others

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Greg Munson
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With city plans in place to do a Canada goose egg destruction project this spring, the possibility exists that area residents and visitors to the city may not enjoy seeing many, or any, goslings in the park for the first time in decades. An 8 a.m. project kickoff is scheduled at the Silver Lake East Pavilion on April 14, with other management to take place at three other city park sites.

While I might be able to support reducing the number of geese at Silver Lake, it is the inhumane method chosen that concerns me and many others I have spoken with. Their plan indicates all eggs found in Silver Lake goose nests would be dipped in oil, except for six that would be spared. Oil on the shells disrupts movement of oxygen and other gasses in and out of the egg, thus slowly suffocating the developing gosling.

Observing some of the nests in early April, with six or seven eggs, indicated to me that some egg-laying had been completed, and incubation started in early April. This meant by mid-April egg-oiling, some goslings may have completed almost two weeks of their approximately 28 days of incubation development.

The second part of the initial plan in early May (when goslings typically hatch) is to destroy all nests and eggs, after which geese are unlikely to re-nest. Egg destruction was suggested to be done by smashing eggs with a canoe paddle, as handling rotten eggs could lead to them exploding in volunteer’s hands.

My first concern is whether it is humane to oil all eggs, thus tricking the goose and gander to continue defending the nest for a month or more against predators, dogs, and humans, sometimes covered with snow, or pounding rain. This deprives them of their goal in nesting, and no one knows for sure how it affects them, mentally or emotionally. This may not bother many people, but I believe geese and other animals are not only smarter than most humans realize, but they also have feelings and emotions in varying degrees. After all, Canada geese, if not shot by hunters, will mate for life, rearing young for 10 to 25 years.

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The second question is whether it is humane if oiling does not fully stop gosling development. I have spoken with John Howard, the Natural Resources Sustainability coordinator for the City of Winona, about their Canada goose management program initiated three years ago. John indicated that after oiling eggs the first two years, "up to a third of eggs still hatched."

However, using another method last year involving egg replacement with ceramic eggs, rather than oiling, they "were very happy with the results." He indicated they are using the same ceramic eggs again this year.

Does all this mean that these geese hatching from oiled eggs may be under stress, possibly impacting development during incubation, with limited air exchange? Perhaps so, which is why I previously proposed the Rochester Park Department not oil eggs, but instead replace all but two or three eggs per nest with ceramic eggs before any incubation starts. It seems more humane than oiling them many days into incubation, but this idea was rejected by park officials.

So, the city is forging ahead with egg oiling that may result in few or no goslings in Silver Lake this year, and destruction of eggs that may result in the killing of partially to half-developed goslings. The geese deserve better, and the citizens of Rochester deserve better.

If you agree, reach out to others with this info, consider showing up at Silver Lake on the 14th, contact your park board representative, or call Parks and Recreation Director, Paul Widman, at 507-328-2527.

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