For years, Boise State groundskeeping officials like Bill Metcalf, landscape manager for facilities operation and maintenance, have been forced to deal with the large increase in the Canada goose populations that winter annually brings in to the Treasure Valley.
Metcalf said Canada geese add to annual university costs in the form of time and manpower spent cleaning up after droppings.
“There’s such a mess on the sidewalks and so they have asked us to keep them off of campus as much as possible,” Metcalf said.
Originally, Metcalf employed a small band of coyote silhouettes on campus to scare geese away, but the birds became accustomed to the ruse. Lifelike hunting decoys were soon purchased.
“The others didn’t seem to work very well, so we purchased these hunting decoys a couple years ago and we’ve been putting them out periodically,” Metcalf said.
Every other day, facilities and maintenance personnel distribute three lifelike coyote decoys across campus and as night falls, they take them away to prevent theft.
“We’ve tried to leave them out at night but they just disappear,” Metcalf said.
Canada geese populations have grown steadily in northwest urban areas over previous decades due to a lack of natural predators and availability of nesting near man-made water sources.
City officials in Boise are also faced with the chore of controlling Canada goose population and have employed more than one approach to keep spaces free from goose droppings.
“We tried a variety of measures in various facilities at Parks and Recreation,” said Amy Stahl, marketing and communications coordinator for Boise Parks & Recreation.
According to Stahl, these measures included using coyote silhouettes, allowing dogs to run off leash as part of an approved city program and limiting the amount of eggs hatched each season.
“We addle eggs. That means oiling them and that prevents them from hatching,” Stahl said.
Workers use substances like corn oil to coat geese eggs, blocking the porous material on each egg and preventing oxygen from reaching the developing chick.
The tactic is approved by Idaho Fish and Game and tricks geese into believing their eggs are still developing, preventing them from immediately laying more to compensate for lost offspring.
As the spring and summer months approach, Stahl said these measure are reduced.
“We’re full on into soccer practice, ultimate frisbee, frisbee golf, people playing softball and overall more people in the parks translates into fewer geese,” Stahl said.
Stahl said keeping geese out of parks and public areas is important to the health and safety of Boise residents who are at risk for slipping on droppings or whose children may consume them and become sick.
“It’s something that we take very seriously here and we know it’s a continuing problem as more geese (spend their) winter in Boise,” Stahl said.