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Protestors flock to Pines meeting

Protesters angered by the recent culling of about 300 resident Canada geese line up outside an Ocean Pines Board meeting at the community center, last Friday.

By Josh Davis, Associate Editor

(Aug. 2, 2018) Some Ocean Pines residents continued to express outrage last week over the recent removal of several hundred resident Canada geese, while others applauded the decision.

Outside a regular board meeting Friday morning about half a dozen women held up signs reading “SECRET Slaughter,” “SHAME ON YOU” and “A Community THAT KILLS WILDLIFE!? NOT FOR ME!”

Inside, General Manager John Bailey addressed the issue.

“No one – and I repeat no one – wants to euthanize geese, including the police, the United States Department of Agriculture and Wildlife Services agency, the members of the association’s environment and natural assets committee, the OPA staff and the board of directors, nor this general manager,” Bailey said. “However, sometimes things of this world simply do not match up with our desires.”

He said geese could be “nice to look at … [but] they also produce a lot of crap” that pollutes association ponds and flows into nearby creeks, rivers and bays.

Geese generally flock to an area because it provides either a food source or a safe place to nest, Bailey said.

“As a food source, the main solution is simple: do not feed the geese,” he said. “I know it’s cute and fun to do, however it’s not healthy for the geese and it’s not helpful in the prevention of another population growth, which none of us want to see happen.”

Bailey said Ocean Pines had tried a number of solutions to prevent overpopulation. Last Wednesday, he apparently met with Maryland Geese Control, an organization that uses border collies to deter invasive goose populations from settling in an area.

“For $625 per week, we will be able begin to begin seeing them onsite, once a day, within a matter of weeks,” Bailey said.

He said several other mitigation methods might also have to be used.
“Quite frankly, geese are smart critters. They adapt. Sometimes a mitigation method may work for a month or more – sometimes a method will only succeed for about 10 minutes.”

Bailey said he planned to attend an upcoming meeting of concerned citizens, Aug. 16 from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Ocean Pines library, and encouraged others to do so, as well as to attend environment and natural asset committee meetings.

“Ultimately, any mitigation efforts that involves association funding and/or fiscal replacement of association property must be coordinated with the association. The environment, the ponds, the creeks, the river, the bay and the geese should be protected – all of it – just as we humans are all stewards of it,” Bailey said, drawing applause from those in attendance.

Reaction on goose control efforts during the public comments portion of the meeting was mixed.

Anne O’Connell said, “Destroying almost the entire flock was wrong” and it seemed the association did not want community involvement.

“The fact that it was done in secret was appalling to a lot of people in Ocean Pines,” she said. “People woke up on Friday [June] 29th and wondered where the geese went. This should never have been done in secret.”

O’Connell said mitigation efforts in 2015, including egg oiling and fencing around the ponds, were halfhearted, but said the use of border collies was a positive step.

“I wish I had seen that in May … before this wholesale slaughter occurred,” she said. “For many of us, we can no longer trust our GM and our board, because you obviously are willing to do things – major things – without letting your resident constituents know.”

Dick Nieman commended the board “for having the courage … to control the population” of geese, to which many in the audience applauded.

Nieman said the topic had been controversial since he moved to Ocean Pines in 1984 and also invoked the dangers of “blue-green algae” that is sometimes attributed to goose feces.

“Some of it is actually deadly,” he said. “Do we want to have a legal case of blue-green algae killing a kid? … From a legal aspect, I think you all made the right move.”

He added Bob Abele, a former board member and former chair of the Maryland Coastal Bays National Estuary Program and Coastal Bays Fishery Advisory Committee, received death threats for his goose-control efforts.

“If we’ve got deranged people like that because of a goose, something is wrong,” he said.

Doris Lloyd introduced herself as a former environmental scientist and complimented the board for “taking care of the geese.”

“The geese were polluting the lake and killing the fish … and also preventing children from fishing here because of the pollution,” she said. “I like to say ‘conservation is wise use of the environment’ and that’s what you are doing, and thank you.”

Her comments were also greeted with applause.