By Josh Davis, Associate Editor
(July 26, 2018) A concerned citizens group has formed in the wake of the June 29 culling of about 300 Canada geese in Ocean Pines.
Dubbed “The Ocean Pines Geese and Ecology Brain Trust Initiative: Securing a Balance,” the group plans to meet publicly for the first time on Thursday, Aug. 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Ocean Pines library on 11107 Cathell Road.
According to a release from Chairwoman Mary Deborah Wilson, “Residents of this community were unaware of the geese confiscation until the action had occurred … in the wee hours of the morning. As a result, there has been much contention and various emotions about the circumstance within this and surrounding communities in Worcester County MD. It is important to channel those responses into action.
“The mission will be to establish best practices in balancing community, geese, and ecological needs in the region based on facts not opinions,” Wilson said in the release. “I plan to request meeting attendance from experts in veterinarian medicine, ministers, water quality, ornithology, lawyers, and political representatives.”
She said the initial meeting would create subgroups “that develop pertinent recommendations and strategies.”
“If you are motivated, persistent, and interested in this initiative, we want you!” Wilson said. “Welcoming any interested parties to attend.”
Wilson, in a phone interview Monday, said she’s a Baltimore native and currently a mental health and geriatric nurse practitioner.
“I’ve been a resident here for seven years in the Pines and part of the allure and beauty, I think, of this region is the wildlife and the ecology,” she said. “I believe we’re all champions of those that can’t defend themselves, that are powerless, so I feel that we have a responsibility to look toward the future and see how we might better resolve the issue of trying to find a balance between the ecology and the wildlife, so that really spurred me on.”
She added she was “concerned that the community really did not know about the action until after it occurred.”
“Everyone’s involved in a different part of the grieving process, trying to come to terms with this. Part of me says, ‘OK, we could be upset, we could be angry, we could be whatever for a long period of time, but let’s do something.’ Let’s channel it, let’s see … what really is the issue and can the bird experts tell us something that might be used to set a better game plan and strategy.”
Perhaps association bylaws and “other protections need to be revised” and put into place, Wilson added.
“I’m hoping that we’ll have a lot of different brains and types of people … and try to come up with a best practice,” she said.
Wilson said future meetings have been set for Sept. 18, Oct. 9 and Dec. 11.
While the subject of goose control has been controversial, it’s not exactly new.
“They’ve been talking about this for the last eight-to-ten years,” Environment and Natural Assets Committee Chairman Tom Janasek said. His group looked into the issue and provided a formal recommendation to the board and general manager.
“It’s been on the books … we’ve had [board] approval for it for the last five years, but nobody would ever sign the check,” he said. “We never had a GM that actually had the will do the right thing and get rid of them.”
Janasek said his committee and the Ocean Pines administration had already explored several other options, including egg addling, installing monofilament lines around the ponds, growing grass barriers, and then cutting them down.
According to a June 29 press release, Ocean Pines hired the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Wildlife Services for the goose removal. When contacting the agency, Janasek said he again went through the checklist.
“When I called them to set this, they said, ‘Have you done this?’ ‘Yup.’ ‘Have you done that?’ ‘Yup.’ They said, ‘Well, this is the last thing we can do,’” Janasek said. “And they went to two other places right after they left us, to do the same thing.
“We’ve been talking about it for years,” he continued. “It was in there, it in the budget [as wildlife management]. It’s been there, plain as day, when we did the budget back in May.”
Janasek said the final bill has not yet come in, but estimated it would be about $3,200. Ocean Pines budgeted $15,000.
He also deflected criticism that homeowners were not adequately notified prior to the goose removal.
“I don’t know how much publicizing did you want. Did you want riots out there? Did you want a bunch of people with signs chasing these guys from USDA or Maryland Department of Natural Resources around the park? I didn’t want any of that,” he said. “I didn’t see any other way to do it … frankly, Ocean Pines has a problem now with everybody having to give their opinion and nothing getting done.
“All I would do is reference the article [the Gazette] wrote in last week’s paper, referencing the USDA talking about how the goose population is so incredibly high everywhere that it’s just not manageable,” Janasek continued.
“The people that came down from Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources told me personally that the South Gate pond, the way it is, couldn’t sustain that many geese.”