Cedar Rapids Considers Fines for Geese Feeding

By Rick Smith, Reporter

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By Jay Knoll

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Feed geese or other wildlife in city parks, on city golf courses or elsewhere on other city property at your own peril.

City officials on Monday won support from the City Council’s Public Safety Committee to ban the feeding of geese and other wildlife on city property, a ban that would include a system of fines like those now in place for leash-law violations and failing to clean up after pets on city property.

The first offense in a year would cost $75, the second, $150, the third, $300, under the proposed new ordinance.

The matter now goes to the full City Council, which has heard stories of too many geese in the city for nearly 20 years.

Daniel Gibbins, the interim director of the city’s Parks and Recreation Department, told the committee on Monday that a no-feeding ordinance was one of the easiest steps that the city can take to try to get a grip on a chronic city problem of large populations of geese — most are great Canada geese — in popular parks and the large amounts of waste they leave behind.

The city, he said, had "small herds" of geese around Robbins Lake in Ellis Park, elsewhere in Ellis Park, around the Tree of Five Seasons in Five Seasons Park and at Noelridge Park.

The city has encouraged people not to feed geese, but people ignore signs in parks that don’t come with the threat of citations and fines, Gibbins said.

The enforcement of a no-feeding ban, he noted, is at the top of the list of actions proposed by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources for the city to control its geese problem.

The city also will continue an annual roundup of geese, which has occurred during the month of June in most years since 1996. Last June, the city, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and volunteers steered some 400 geese into pens and onto trucks to be transported to other counties. Some of the adults eventually return, but the thought is the young ones will stay where they learn to fly.

Gibbins told the council committee that the city also is working to obtain a license that will allow employees in 2014 to oil geese eggs in about 150 nests to prevent the eggs from developing.

"It’s considered a humane way to reduce the number of young geese," he said.

Tim Thompson, a DNR wildlife biologist in Iowa City, said on Monday that a typical female goose produces between two and six eggs a season. The geese are nesting now and eggs will hatch in about 26 to 28 days.

Some of giant Canada geese winter in Cedar Rapids and consider this home while others are flying through from winter homes down south on their way into Canada, Thompson reported.

Thompson said there aren’t necessarily too many geese in Cedar Rapids and in other cities in Iowa, but he said there are just too many in one spot. A main reason for crowds of geese is that people feed them, he said.

"Feeding gets the birds more accustomed to getting handouts so they don’t have to work to eat," he said.

Gibbins told the council committee that bread isn’t good for geese even if people including youngsters like feeding bread to the birds.

He said the city will continue to try to plant grasses around certain bodies of water, such as the city has done in Noelridge Park, to try to encourage geese to relocate. Geese like open bodies of water so they can see if any predators are nearby, he explained.

Gibbins said putting out bread doesn’t just attract geese. He said people have gotten accustomed to leaving a large amount of bread in Greene Square Park in downtown Cedar Rapids, and sparrows and other birds crowd in to eat and then to defecate on the park benches.

"The benches are just coated in bird waste," he said. "We’re in there almost on a daily basis cleaning up."

Council member Kris Gulick asked Gibbins if park workers would issue bird-feeding citations along with the Police Department and the city’s animal control officers. The city ordinance doesn’t give park workers that authority, Gibbins replied.

"Not that we want to issue that many citations," Gulick said. "We want them not to feed the geese."

Gibbins noted that some cities round up geese and then ship them to local food pantries. Council member Chuck Swore said the city should look at that option.

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