August 9, 2012

Two Border Collies run into Sharon’s Lake Massapoag roughly twice a day, and that’s prompting squawking.The geese are afraid. Interim Recreation Director Amanda Deni says she hired the Shoo, Geese! Border Patrol in mid-July to send the lake’s geese population a message: go away, because your poop is making an unhealthy mess on the beach.Shoo, Geese owner Gail Devins releases her two dogs into the lake, where they chase the geese a good distance away from the shore.Devins says she has come down roughly twice per day since being hired on an on-call basis.“I would have my staff clean up geese droppings for two to three hours per day,” Deni says.

They’re spending less time on this task since Devins arrived, Deni says.

“Gail is definitely helping,” she says.

Devins says she saw about 30 geese on the beach on her first day.

“They make such a mess, because the geese eat an awful lot of grass within a short amount of time. It only takes seven minutes from eating the grass to making goose mess,” she says.

“Each goose uses the facilities about 25 times a day. So if you have 30 geese, …,” Devins says.

Devins says she uses only border collies because “they’re herders by nature.”

“They herd sheep. So, what they’re doing with the geese is they’re just trying to herd the geese,” she says.

“They’ll never, ever hurt them. They’ll never catch them or bite them. They’ll only herd them.

“The geese don’t know that. The Border Collie resembles an Arctic fox. The Arctic fox is a natural predator on the Canada goose. So when the Canada goose sees this predator, they’re afraid it’s an Arctic fox, and they go crazy. That’s why you’ll see other dogs, oftentimes, the geese aren’t as bothered by them.”

Deni says she began asking around locally for options last month because the AwayWithGeese lights the town purchased this spring “didn’t seem to be doing the trick.”

A golf club Deni called said Devins had helped address a geese problem there.

Devins says she expects to return regularly until the end of November, and then return in mid-February.

“The fall is especially important, because, many times, the geese don’t go south anymore for the winter. They stay here. They’re looking for another place where they can actually stay,” she says.

Geese also lay eggs here, Devins says.

“Where these geese are born, they always return to where they were born,” she says.

“So, if these geese were hatched anywhere near here, as adults, they’ll come back. But, if we get them at the beginning of February before they start laying eggs, they’ll go somewhere else to nest.”

Droppings at Sharon’s two beaches have been a health concern in Sharon. Whether geese or dogs are the bigger source of the problem, which some say also has raised the lake’s nutrient levels, creating weeds, has been debated here.

In late June, the board of health implemented a regulation banning dogs from Veteran’s Memorial Park Beach and Community Center Beach from April 15 to Oct. 15.

Previously, a policy the board of selectmen adopted on Aug. 17, 2010 prohibited dogs from Veteran’s Memorial Park Beach from Memorial Day to Labor Day while the beach is staffed, or open for a public event, the policy states. Dogs were restricted to the path, and leashed, at all other times, the policy states. Community Center Beach prohibited dogs completely from Memorial Day to Labor Day, and only leashed otherwise.

Devins says the absence of dogs now “could be” contributing to the geese problem.

“The only thing is, the geese are smarter than we think,” she says.

“Say you take your dog for a walk every morning at 6, and you walk along the beach. Those geese, after a while, know that that dog is on a leash and that dog is not coming after them.”

by Michael Gelbwasser