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Goose on the loose: Lake of the Pines faces a flock of problems with bird population

Community seeks permit for controversial egg oiling
By: Jenifer Gee, Journal Staff Writer
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The Canada geese in the Lake of the Pines pond are making a ripple effect that extends past the shoreline. The geese are considered a nuisance by many residents of the gated community, according to one Lake of the Pines representative. But they are a protected species under the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act and are adored by others. One local wildlife group contends the community is illegally trying to control the geese population. It's a claim Lake of the Pines residents refute. Joann Johnson, vice president of Gold Country Wildlife Rescue, said she heard from some Lake of the Pines employees that some residents were pouring pure corn oil over eggs to prevent them from hatching. Johnson would not supply a name for the Auburn Journal to contact. Ron Bomhoff, chairman of the waterfowl management committee for Lake of the Pines, said claims that the community is illegally pouring corn oil over goose eggs are untrue. We are not oiling eggs. We applied for the permit and we're waiting for that permit, Bomhoff said. Bomhoff said the goose population has significantly grown in the last four years. He and his wife have been regular weekenders to Lake of the Pines since 1971 and became permanent residents four years ago. Not until recently has the goose population become so visible ” and so annoying, he said. These geese haven't been here forever, Bomhoff said. We used to love to watch and hear them fly in and land on the lake. We'd hear them take off next morning. They're very vocal and that used to be a real treat. Now, Bomhoff said, there are too many. Geese are often seen eating grass on front lawns and the golf course and leave behind their waste. On Tuesday, Bomhoff said the community spotted one of its first nests, but will not touch it until they have a permit. We might have to wait another year for that, but that's OK, he said. And while the community waits for a permit it may or may not receive, hazing is the solution, Bomhoff said. The hazing includes chasing geese away a few times a day. A Lake of the Pines waterfowl committee recruits volunteers who also use balloons with eyes drawn on them, which geese see as predators. At night volunteers flash green lasers to disperse the birds. Bomhoff stressed that none of the tactics have injured the geese, nor is it the intent of community members to hurt the animals. The tactics have been successful in reducing the population, but Bomhoff said the birds will come back if it stops. I believe what we're doing is very acceptable, Bomhoff said. We're not doing anything inhumane or overtly cruel to the birds. We just want to be able to walk in our parks without walking in their poop. After about three years of constant complaining but no action from the community, last year the waterfowl management committee decided to file for a permit to cover goose eggs with corn oil, Bomhoff said. Covering eggs with corn oil in the early stages of development suffocates the egg, which sterilizes it, according to The Humane Society Guide. At Lake of the Pines there's no real outcry that this is the wrong thing to do, Bomhoff said. Curt Ransom, regional program manager of the West Cost regional office for The Human Society of the United States, said that non-lethal forms are still the preferred and only way to control overgrown animal populations. The best long-term solution is non-lethal, Ransom said. You can never get rid of all the geese. Even if you do, others take their place. Ransom said legal forms of hazing are acceptable and preferred. Bomhoff said the community has not yet oiled any eggs, and is waiting for a permit from the state Department of Fish and Game. The number of egg-oiling permits issued last year and this year by the department? A big fat goose egg, according to Dan Yparraguirre, waterfowl coordinator for the state Department of Fish and Game. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved egg oiling in 2006. It issued 12 permits that year, Yparraguirre said. However, that federal law is in conflict with current California law, which prohibits egg oiling. Yparraguirre said the earliest the state Fish and Game Commission will consider changing state regulations to adopt federal regulations would be this May. So while it is absolutely feasible next year that egg depredation permits can be issued, this year is pretty glum in terms of folks being able to do that, Yparraguirre said. Despite some views that egg depredation is an effective and relatively harmless form of population control, local and national animal rights groups say they would rather see non-lethal forms used. Johnson said the group looked into whether or not it could take possession of the eggs, incubate them and then re-release them in a different area. But both Johnson and Yparraguirre confirmed that would be illegal. On a national scale, The Humane Society of the United States lists egg oiling as an acceptable form of Canada goose control as long as it's completed within the early stages of the egg's development, according to a Humanely resolving conflicts with Canada Geese: The HSUS Guide. Yparraguirre said if and when the department is allowed to issue permits, it would maintain slightly more oversight over rural areas than urban areas. But that decision rests in the hands of the commission, he said. I know how frustrated Lake of the Pines is and they're not the only ones, Yparraguirre said. It's tough on folks suffering the damages, but they have to get a grip that these geese are wildlife resource that belong to the state of California. The Journal's Jenifer Gee can be reached at jeniferg@goldcountrymedia.com or post a comment.