The “No Dogs Allowed” sign at the entrance to Nickerson Beach Park in Lido Beach has two notable exceptions.
Hempstead Town conservation workers deploy their two border collies daily at the beach — one of 20 parks throughout the town patrolled by the dogs to chase geese away from fields and reduce the mess they leave behind.
This year marks the 10th that the town has used the dogs to reduce the problematic goose droppings that plague schools, parks and Little League fields.
The town leases the dogs from GeesePeace, a Virginia-based nonprofit that trains the collies. The dogs Hempstead is using were trained in Canada and brought to Long Island, where town employees work with and care for them. Hempstead officials last month renewed the contract to lease two dogs for another year at $12,500. The two handlers who work for the Hempstead Parks Department are paid a combined salary of $189,770 annually.
The town has been contracted to also use the dogs for the Merrick school district, and at facilities in Seaford, Valley Stream and Malverne.
The towns of Oyster Bay and North Hempstead also use trained dogs to control geese in public areas.
“We love our hardworking border collies at Hempstead Town,” Supervisor Anthony Santino said. “What’s more, kids who play on local fields and neighbors out for a stroll love the fact that we are doing a good job at keeping Canada geese droppings under control at local town facilities.”
Hempstead Recreation Director Joanne Weed, one of the handlers, sent 4-year-old collie Shepermint to run free into the fields off Nickerson Beach last week, sending a burst of birds scattering into the air. The collies rely on their herding instinct to chase the birds away without needing any other incentive before returning to their handlers. The geese fly away long before they can be caught.
Weed said the dogs condition the geese to not come back to the fields for about four hours at a time. Handlers rotate on shifts daily at problematic areas searching for and scattering geese.
“It’s the perfect solution. It keeps them [the geese] moving and it keeps the parks clear for our kids,” Weed said. “Previously, the fields were unusable and people didn’t want to use them. Now people can enjoy them.”
The dogs come trained to interact with people and are obedient enough to stay out of roads. Weed said handlers make sure the dogs are adapted from Canadian wild lands to have a more “Long Island temperament” and tolerance for bustling suburbia. Collies go home with their handlers and can work for more than a decade before they’re too old to keep up. At that point, they are returned to Canadian trainers at the end of the lease.
Parks workers also try to control the geese population by using corn oil on eggs at nests near waterways. Workers use kayaks to reach the nests and spread oil on the eggs to smother them and prevent them from hatching. The town has been oiling as many as 1,000 eggs each year.
The dogs and oiling efforts focus on the Canada geese that spend winters in Long Island from November to May. The program operates in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services and the Humane Society of the United States, among several other organizations.