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USDA removed Canada geese from Wellesley Island after contact with Thousand Island Country Club


WELLESLEY ISLAND — The clearing and destruction of Canada geese from the island in June took place after federal wildlife officials were contacted by the Thousand Islands Country Club.

William H. Bartlett, manager and course superintendent for the club, said his staff first contacted the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Service in May to learn about options for clearing the geese. The department told the country club that a roundup would be possible, and club officials were contacted before the roundup was conducted June 20.

About 120 Canada geese were killed after being collected from Densmore Bay and the club’s marina, off Club Road near the third and fourth holes of the Old Course. The department performed the roundup with permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees emissions into Lake Ontario.

The geese were taken to a food processor in the western part of the state, and the meat was donated to in-state food pantries. The timing of the roundup coincided with the birds’ molting period, when their lack of feathers prevents them from flying.

Mr. Bartlett said that the club had struggled to deal with the geese for years, and that he and other club staff members received about 20 complaints a week from golfers about the behavior of the geese and the excrement they left on the course.

“They’re very aggressive when protecting their young, but it’s mainly their droppings,” he said.

The nuisance led to what he called an “ongoing battle” to rein in the birds’ behavior. In previous years, the club had used nonlethal methods to try to move the geese from club property, with limited effect.

“They’ll fly from one fairway to the next fairway,” Mr. Bartlett said.

The use of shell crackers, a type of shotgun blank commonly used for scaring and clearing birds, was effective for only a few days.

“They worked until they realized it only made noise,” Mr. Bartlett said.

The course also attempted addling the birds’ eggs, but that too had only a limited impact. An increase in geese population meant the club’s problems only grew larger.

“The population has just gone rampant,” Mr. Bartlett said.

He said Canada geese have proven to be a problem for several of the island’s residents, along with other golf courses in the region, including Ives Hill Country Club in Watertown.

Mr. Bartlett said that in the past the club has worked with the USDA, allowing the department for the past three years to come onto club’s 800 acres to track and treat the raccoon populations for rabies.

The club’s owner, JoAnn Schwalm, was away from the area and not available for comment Monday.

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