Foiling Foul Fowls

Bob Young has an allergy to dogs, but like most parents, he would do anything for his kids, and his wanted a dog, so the family acquired a border collie. 

The breed is known for its boundless energy, and with the kids in school, the job of giving Boomer his required exercise often fell to the paterfamilias. One day, after Young had turned Boomer loose on a ball field, he was approached by the owner of a nearby golf course that was plagued by flocks of Canada geese and their copious droppings. The man told Young he had recently read that border collies were effective in controlling geese, and would Young consider bringing his dog to the course periodically to chase the irksome birds? In exchange, he would give Young and his son golf lessons.

Young agreed, and Boomer began spending hours gleefully chasing geese off the course. While he never took the golf lessons, watching Boomer work stirred Young’s entrepreneurial spirt. Why not, he thought, acquire more border collies and hire them out to golf courses, parks and other areas plagued by the foul fowls? Thus was born the predictably named Geese Chasers.

That was 1998. While Young continued to work in the medical field, his side business, headquartered in Mt. Laurel, N.J., grew to 11 franchises, including Delaware, that reach as far west as Chicago. In fact, Young says, Geese Chasers has grown between 15 and 25% every year since its inception.

And no wonder. Flocks of Canada geese (that’s the correct name; not “Canadian geese”) plague public, commercial and corporate properties, reservoirs, golf courses, housing developments, lakes, and ponds. Generally, the offenders are not the migratory birds seen flying south in a V-formation every fall; they are resident geese that stay in an area year-round. 

Poop Problems

The birds are attracted to any area with a large expanse of grass or water. They can cause several problems, almost all related to their feces, which is ample. Both the males, which weigh 6 to 14 pounds, and females, weighing 5 to 12 pounds, can produce 1 to 2 pounds of droppings daily. The poop can degrade water, make walkways unusable, and foul mowers and other maintenance equipment. The birds also often tear out grass by its roots. And during nesting season, they tend to be aggressive toward humans.

The droppings can cause health issues such as E. coli, says Kerri Stinger, who owns the Geese Chasers franchise for Delaware and southern New Jersey. She employs seven handlers and five border collies who are currently kept busy treating more than 30 properties in the two states. 

“I’ve treated properties with lakes where people can no longer swim because of the pollution, walkways that nobody can even step on,” she says. 

One of her satisfied customers is the City of Newark, which began using the service in 2018 to chase geese from the Newark reservoir. The 317-million-gallon reservoir is both a recreational park and raw water storage facility for the city’s water treatment plant. 

“Geese are a direct point source of bacteria and nitrate to the reservoir,” says Mark Neimeister, Water Operations superintendent for the city. “Prior to 2018, several recreational swimming events had to be suspended due to high bacteria counts. After experimenting with multiple geese deterrent solutions, the use of trained geese-chasing dogs has proven to be most effective. We regularly hear positive feedback from residents regarding the creativity of the program and the new cleanliness of the trailway.”

Waters Edge Condominiums in Newark has been using Geese Chasers dogs for just over a year, according to Mike Feret, president of the Homeowners Association. “We had an over-population of geese for a long time destroying our community with their feces and destroying the landscaping by eating all the grass,” Feret says, adding that the birds were also aggressive in the spring when they were nesting. 

“Geese Chasers has helped our community tremendously,” he says. “We have hardly one goose on the pond. They just seem to avoid our community now. It’s crazy to see them fly over our ponds and not even want to land in them anymore.”

Other Control Methods

Feret says that, prior to hiring Geese Chasers, “we tried a light beacon deterrent that floats in the ponds and flashes yellow on and off all night long. That deterred the visiting geese, but it didn’t deter the resident geese.”

Other methods that have been used in controlling Canada geese include scarecrows, Mylar Flash Tape, balloons tied to poles, sound machines, and chemical repellent.

All of these are less expensive than border collies, but none are as effective, according to Young. “We’re often the last call people make,” he says.

Treatment can cost upwards of $800 a month, and clearing an area of geese can take weeks or months. Geese Chasers offers several programs to address the problem, including a maintenance service and an on-call service.

Young says that both PETA and the Humane Society of North America have endorsed Geese Chasers’ methods because the dogs never come into contact with the geese. The dogs circle them, herd them, and generally make them uncomfortable, even chasing them into the water. Young says that in both their appearance and movements, border collies resemble the Arctic fox, a natural enemy of geese. 

“Border collies are probably the most intelligent and most athletic dog in the world,” Young says. “We’ve tried many breeds over the years and there’s not even a close second.” 

Despite his regard for the dogs, because of his allergy he leaves the actual handling to his employees.

Geese Chasers opened its 11th franchise in Cleveland early this year. Soon afterward, Young, who has a master’s degree in sports medicine and a physician assistant certificate, retired from the medical industry to devote full time to the growing business. The move seemed inevitable, because, despite the fact that he spent decades in the medical field and nine years studying sports medicine. Young says, “I’m known for geese.”