On football field geese outscore SHS athletes

On football field geese outscore SHS athletes

SMITHFIELD - With varsity football about to start, school officials will soon huddle up to plan a goal-line defense against a perennial gridiron adversary: the squadron of Canada geese whose droppings litter the outdoor athletic complex.

School Buildings and Grounds Director John Obiurka says geese have long congregated in the area and that attempts to scare them off over the years - including the use of plywood coyote cutouts - have been futile.

So honk if you have a solution.

Obiurka says he's researching the problem and hopes to present alternatives to the School Committee within a few weeks. Town Councilor Bernard Hawkins, who terms the situation "absolutely disgusting," says he'll bring it up for council discussion even though it's really a school board issue.

Athletic Director Anthony Torregrossa said he often sees geese around the football field's goal posts when he arrives at work and that over the years "They've gotten smarter - it's a legitimate problem. We clean it up as best we can, but you can't keep up with it on the track."

As for the fake coyotes, he said, the geese just walked up to them and did their business "right under their noses."

Years ago, Obiurka said, a teacher even brought a German shepherd along in a vain attempt to run the birds off.

He said the problem is not confined to the high school complex, but exists as well at other schools with large open areas, especially the LaPerche Elementary School.

The Smithfield geese, confirmed scofflaws, also spend time on the police station lawn, where coyote figures have been similarly ineffective. Chief Richard St. Sauveur Jr. says, in fact, that the birds "have become rather fond" of the cutouts.

The situation was spotlighted recently when an anonymous father wrote town and school officials about his Aug. 8 visit to a youth track meet at the high school, complaining, "As in recent years, we were once again disgusted at the sight of the geese feces littering the track, the surrounding facility, and grassy areas as the geese roamed the football field."

He wrote that he saw some of the youthful competitors "weave in and out of the feces while running in their lane to avoid stepping in it," and that sidestepping the mess became so paramount that winning the race was merely "a secondary option."

The letter-writer also had concerns about what the situation will do for Smithfield's image: "I can only imagine when the high school hosts soccer and football games at this facility in the fall what neighboring towns will think."

According to the DEM, an adult goose produces a pound of manure daily.

Obiurka says the problem is one with no easy solution, especially since the birds are protected under federal and state law.

He said he's researching repellents, but noted that they can be expensive, with one priced at $22,500 for what the town would need.

Another option might be flash strobe lights, he said.

Federal permits are required for the capture, handling, or killing of Canada geese, but they are issued only as a last resort, and methodology would be limited in town because the affected areas are residential, where additional restrictions apply.

Relocating geese isn't an option, according to the state Department of Environmental Management, because the population has exploded to the point where they are now found nearly everywhere.

The DEM suggests a variety of remedies, some practical and some not depending on the location of an affected area, including noisemakers, goose-chasing dogs, repellents, and strings of reflecting tape that flash in sunlight.

But, as Councilman Hawkins says, the geese have been showing up there for so long that persuading them to move out now may be difficult.

After all this time, their schoolyard convocations - like the wearing of caps and gowns at graduation or the dousing of a victorious football coach - are apparently their version of tradition.

Comments

Don't we have more important things to complain about besides goose poop. Clean it up. Buy a machine, called a Nature Sweep, run it across the field, turn the poop into compost. Sell it or give it away to gardeners. Find the goose nests every year, go online and get a permit to oil eggs from US FWS, take an online course in how to humanely oil goose eggs, and goose population problem fixed. There. Now you can go work on solving some of the real problems in the world.