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E. Donald Conroy Golf Course plagued by goose problem

Entrance to the E. Donald Conroy Golf Course,

Entrance to the E. Donald Conroy Golf Course, seen on Monday, May 2, 2016. Babylon Town officials appear to be fighting a losing battle with flocks of geese that congregate there. Credit: Barry Sloan

Babylon Village officials are trying, with little success, to evict a gaggle of Canada geese from the village-owned E. Donald Conroy Golf Course.

As many as 100 geese have been spotted at the popular nine-hole course during summer months, congregating at ponds near the first and fifth holes. On at least one occasion they menaced a golfer searching for a ball lost in the weeds, Deputy Mayor Kevin Muldowney said.

But their chief offense is their prodigious defecation. On average, according to the federal government, a goose excretes 1 to 3 pounds of guano every day.

“We have to blow the guano off the greens,” Muldowney said. “It delays the opening of the course.”

The village has tried air horns and silhouettes of dogs and foxes to scare away the geese, none of which had a lasting effect. Specially trained border collies can be brought in on a consultancy basis, but Muldowney said they are pricey at $800 to $1,200 a month.

The latest attempt at eviction was last month and employed a remote-controlled, propeller-driven device called the Goosinator. Bright orange, with giant eyes and teeth painted on its foam body — “a dragon-looking thing,” Muldowney said — it roared across fairways and water hazards on a pair of lightweight skis.

It drove the geese away temporarily, Muldowney said, but officials didn’t like the $3,500 purchase price. The Goosinator was returned.

“We’re back to the drawing board,” he said.

Babylon Village’s goose problem is Long Island’s problem. “Everything they need is suitable and adequate in these suburban areas: golf courses, corporate parks, people’s lawns, athletic fields,” said David Drake, a wildlife ecologist at University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The region is a stopover on the Atlantic Flyway, a swath extending from Canada to the Caribbean that millions of pairs of migrating geese travel each year. New York State is also home to about 200,000 full-time resident geese.

That number so far exceeds the New York State target of 85,000, said Kelly Hamilton, a wildlife biologist with the state DEC. She called the resident geese population “out of control” in an interview this week.

The state’s Canada goose management plan was last revised in 1999, she said. On Long Island, the bird has few natural predators and population control largely depends on what she called a “liberal” hunting season and on local efforts.

For example, Hempstead Town oils eggs to prevent embryo development and in 2014 restricted feeding geese and other birds. In North Hempstead, officials considered euthanization but backed off in 2013 after protests from wildlife advocates; the town now employs a border collie and permits dogs into several parks under a new program.

Babylon Town has responded to what is referred to on the town website as a “major geese problem” with a program of egg oiling and geese hazing by specialists who use dogs and pop guns.

“If we stopped this program for a year, the geese would just come back,” town spokesman Kevin Bonner said.

For the Babylon Village course, which operates at a small loss and employs a staff of just three, there are few obvious solutions.

Habitat manipulation that might make the course less attractive to geese might also make it less attractive to golfers; and, for now, officials are unwilling to pursue lethal methods.

“Who wants to be playing golf and watch guys walk by with shotguns?” Muldowney asked.

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