Video: Volunteers aid wild goose chase at Liberty Park
Wildlife • Biologists and volunteers round them up for relocation.
Published: June 13, 2014 10:18PM
Updated: June 13, 2014 10:30PM
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Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune Walker Baer, 6, lends a hand at Liberty Park on Friday morning. The urban goose roundup attracts volunteers young and old as DWR biologists band urban geese at Liberty Park and Decker Lake for relocation to other parts of the state. Geese, a common sight at many Utah golf courses and parks can become a messy nuisance if not kept in check. By relocating them to marshes in both northern and southern Utah, they can learn natural migration patterns and behaviors from wild geese.

Kids are usually told to leave wildlife alone. But Friday, children and other volunteers gleefully chased geese into a pen at Liberty Park during the annual urban goose round up.

Heidee Talbot and her sisters, Hollee and Allison, lifted geese with confidence, unafraid of being bit. As a volunteer for the past three summers, 19-year-old Heidee Talbot knows the trick to calming a bird: Tuck its head under a wing to fool it into thinking it’s asleep, and hold its feet together.

“We thought it was fun holding geese, chasing them down,” 17-year-old Hollee Talbot said. “We’ve had some pretty wild geese.”

Department of Natural Resources employees invited waterfowl enthusiasts of all ages to help Friday with the annual effort to relocate geese from Liberty Park and Decker Lake.

“We get [the geese] out of an urban environment where a lot of times they’re not wanted,” project coordinator Rich Hansen said. “When they congregate in large numbers, they poop all over the place and it really bothers golfers and people that live in apartment complexes.”

The project started Monday, and Hansen said his crews captured geese at six to eight locations a day for the entire week.

At Liberty Park, the birds were herded onto shore by kayakers. Everyone else guided the geese into a pen, where the juvenile birds were separated from the adults.

DNR crews placed a metal band with an identification code on one leg of each bird, and recorded the band number with the goose’s age and gender.

This year, adult geese are being taken to Browns Park Waterfowl Management Area in Vernal. The juveniles, which haven’t learned to fly yet, are being released at the Salt Creek Waterfowl Management Area in Box Elder County.

“We’ll take the juveniles and we’ll relocate them in marshes on the north end of the Great Salt Lake with wild birds,” Hansen said. “And when we do that, they’ll imprint on those wild birds and they’ll migrate and they’ll stay out of the city.”

Hansen said he’s been relocating geese for nine years and during that time, the population in the urban areas of the valley has decreased significantly — only about 10 percent of the captured birds return.

Adults are taken farther away to reduce the likelihood they will fly back.

Animal rights protests aren’t common. Hansen receives complaints occasionally, but not about the welfare of the birds.

“Every once in a while some people will be upset that we’re taking them,” he said. “But you know, we’re just taking them back out into the wild where they evolved and where they belong.”

Hansen’s favorite part of the project is seeing the kids enjoy it.

“We’d love to have kids come out and get the hands-on experience with wildlife,” he said. “In the nine years that I’ve been coming it’s just awesome to see the kids that were just little in the first years — they come back every year.”

Waterfowl hunters also gather to help with the conservation effort.

“I take a lot of the resource so I feel like I need to give back,” said Jeff Bringhurst, using both his hands to hold an adult goose by its wings and feet. “A lot of these guys are water fowlers. It’d be selfish of us not to give back.”