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Cedar Rapids Unveils Goose-Chasing Device to Keep Amphitheater Clean

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- Flocks of geese that made a mess around the city of Cedar Rapids' new riverfront amphitheater last summer will meet their match this spring. The city is about to deploy a small group of remote controlled devices that will chase the geese away from the inviting grass.

Goose droppings plagued the grassy portions of the new McGrath Amphitheatre even before it opened officially last fall. The flocks threatened to create a constant clean up mess for parks workers anytime an event was scheduled. But over the winter, with the help of volunteers, parks workers plotted their revenue.

Tuesday morning, city leaders invited the media to meet a device called "FIDO." That stands for Fowl Intercept & Dispersal Officer. Tongue in cheek aside, FIDO is really a remote-controlled device made of lightweight orange-colored foam with a model aircraft engine and pontoons with wheels. It's about the size of a small dog and can chase geese away from areas on either water, snow, ice or grass using a battery-powered engine and propeller.

The Quiet Flyers, a group that promotes radio-controlled aircraft flying, worked with city park staff over the winter to put together six devices to use in trying to get geese to move away from certain areas. Once the weather warms up, parks employees with the remote controlled in hand, will chase the geese away from the amphitheater grounds at least once a day. The devices will also be used to get geese to leave golf courses and other inappropriate locations. City officials say it's important to move the geese soon because they will soon be looking for nesting areas and will be harder to remove.

The FIDOs don't harm the geese, but the noise, movement and color seem to bother the animals who fly away to quieter areas. Workers maneuver the devices much like a sheep dog in a back and forth pattern to herd the animals.

Daniel Gibbins, Cedar Rapids Parks Superintendent, said commercial versions of the goose chasers cost between $3,000 and $4,000. The ones constructed with city staff and volunteers probably contain parts worth about $600 apiece. The city has conducted a few experiments and found the mechanical devices do convince geese to move elsewhere. Parks workers couldn't demonstrate the devices Tuesday due to high winds and no geese near the amphitheater. But city staffers believe the system will work and keep the geese off the amphitheater grass.