Geese, Farewell

The Youville Place pond: not a goose in sight!For years, Youville Place residents have grudgingly shared their front yard with a flock of Canadian geese. Territorial disputes have raged for as long as anyone can remember, with neither humans nor geese ceding any ground. Calls and honks for peace have degenerated. Making matters worse, neither side seems able to understand the demands of the other.  

To their credit, the Youville geese are relatively civil creatures. They rarely give chase and have been known to raise cute chicks, to the delight of human onlookers. But a grave problem underlies these superficial niceties. The geese have an annoying habit of gorging themselves on large swaths of lawn, and then depositing the remainder of those processed meals back on the lawn, in the form of goose waste.

Bob Salamanca, Director of Environmental Services, has led maintenance efforts at Youville Place for nine years. He confirms that the geese have been an ongoing nuisance for as long as he can remember. In addition to aesthetic concerns, the detritus left behind after their copious meals of grass – “landmines” as Salamanca calls them – pose safety issues for residents who like to walk around the pond in the spring time.

In the past, Youville has attempted a variety of methods to get rid of these unwanted guests. “There was a grid system we considered laying out over the pond to disrupt the geese’s landings, but that wasn’t a well-proven method,” says Salamanca. “We also considered a Portable Hazing Unit – a device that releases grape scented spray and a noise designed to repel the geese. But we couldn’t do that for safety reasons.”

One method that Youville temporarily adopted was the implementation of decoys – fake plastic coyotes mounted at key locations around the pond.  The coyotes soon gained notoriety among residents, family members and staff alike, all of whom were more frightened by the strikingly realistic decoys than the geese. “The reception desk actually got a few frightened calls from people saying they’d spotted coyotes out in the yard,” recalls Virginia Ellis, Director of Community Life. Meanwhile, the geese remained indifferent to the plastic predators in their midst, and their unsightly detritus continued to abound. Residents began to take matters into their own hands, carrying whistles out to the pond to attempt to drive the geese away.

“Those decoys,” Salamanca recalls with a faint shudder, “were not working. We needed to try something new.”

Meet Flag and Dan, specially-trained Border Collies and highly respected officers of the Goose Police squad. Accompanied by their human deputies, Flag and Dan are our latest allies in the struggle to rid the Youville pond of its stubborn inhabitants. They arrive multiple times a week to inspect the grounds, intimidate any geese-like creatures thereupon with scare tactics, and give chase if necessary. The two canines are highly experienced, with proven records of cleaning up goose-ridden lawns throughout New England. Their most effective techniques include a wolf-like stare and a predatory stance.

The Border Collies are also environmentally friendly – they never hurt the geese, they just scare them away. Border Collies were originally bred to herd sheep, and their natural instincts are perfectly adapted to patrolling goose-ridden lawns  They show up at Youville at unpredictable times, thereby tricking the geese into believing that there are numerous predators in the area. 

“It’s an ongoing process,” says Salamanca. “Once the dogs establish a continual presence at Youville, the geese learn to stay away.”

Due to their busy schedules, neither of our canine allies could be interviewed for this story. Perhaps one day, when the lawns of Lexington are cleaner and safer, Flag and Dan will have the time to fortify us with a few words, or yelps, of wisdom. Until then, we admire their police work from afar. Next time you’re out for a stroll, you might be lucky enough to get a glimpse of this elite team in action.