MAHOPAC, N.Y. - The saga of the geese on Mahopac lakes and the problems they cause took a strange turn last week when the Town Board reversed its decision not to undertake a goose-removal project. However, now it’s too late as the window of opportunity to capture the nuisance birds has closed.
Last month, the boards of directors for the Lake Mahopac and Lake Casse park districts, and the Recreation Department, representing Sycamore Park and the adjacent Long Pond Lake, requested that the town authorize a goose depredation and a permit was obtained from the state to perform it.
But at the Town Board’s June 19 meeting, a vote to approve the goose-culling failed. At that meeting, board members Jonathan Schneider and Suzi McDonough were absent, leaving just Councilmen John Lupinacci and Mike Barile and Supervisor Ken Schmitt to decide. Lupinacci and Barile voted yes, while Schmitt abstained. A resolution needs at least three votes to pass.
However, at the board’s June 26 meeting, members of the Lake Casse Park District Advisory Board showed up and excoriated the board for voting down the resolution.
“Our lake has been shut down and has been shut down for the past two summers due to the blue-green algae,” said Lake Casse Park District board member John Aquina. “But at our [board] meetings for the past 20 years, our biggest complaints [from residents] have been the geese. But in the last two years, it’s been these lake closings and what are we doing about it. One of the things we said is we have to get rid of the geese. The nitrates they produce are food for the blue-green algae. We also have to look at leaky septic tanks and the town and the county have been out there with drones looking at the septic tanks. But it’s the geese that have been a constant problem on our lake.”
Aquina said his board researched the goose issue and has tried alternative ways to get rid of them.
“Everything from decoys to reflective tape to fishing line across the entrance; pretty much everything you can imagine we have tried,” he said. “These alternative methods just send the geese to another part of the lake, so it doesn’t address the nitrate problem. Now, it’s affected the water and the community can’t use the beach.
“We addressed this over the winter and decided this is one of the things we can do to positively affect our water—get rid of the geese and the nitrates they produce [through their excrement],” he continued. “So, we budgeted for it and made all the arrangements and when you nixed it, we were shocked.”
Aquina noted that Canada geese are not a native species and are considered invasive.
“They are pretty and nice to watch, but they are messy and are polluting our lake,” he said. “If we came to you and said our clubhouse was infested with rats and we want to hire an exterminator, would you turn us down or ask us to use some other method to chase them away? No, you’d say, ‘Get an exterminator.’ It’s not a lot different. They’re cuter than rats and I understand some people have an affection for these birds, but they are a problem for the health of our lake.”
Councilman Mike Barile noted that when the birds are captured, their meat is used for a good cause.
Board Reverses Decision on Goose Removal, But It’s Too Late
“It’s not as though someone is going out there with a machine gun and mow them down and watch them float to the bottom of the lake,” he said. “They are going to be rounded up and be killed the same way a cow is killed, the same way a chicken is killed…and the food is going to be brought somewhere for people who need the food.”
Lake Casse board member Kim Kugler said that members of the park districts bear the cost of the depredation and that the residents of the districts are willing to spend it.
“Our residents want to know what we are doing. They complain that their tax dollars are going to nothing,” she told the board. “Councilwoman McDonough said that [the lakes] are the geese’s home. Well, it’s our home, too.”
Though the June 26 session was not a voting meeting, Lupinacci made a motion to put the resolution back on the table and this time the vote passed, 3-1-1. Lupinacci and Barile voted yes again, and Schmitt still abstained, while Schneider voted yes, leaving McDonough as the lone dissenting vote.
However, the window of opportunity to gather the geese and capture them in pens has passed. When the geese molt, losing their feathers, they are unable to fly and remain somewhat passive and thus can be rounded up, explained Ed Barnett, chair of the Lake Mahopac Park District Advisory Board. Now, the birds have regained their feathers, making a roundup next to impossible.
“It’s too late now,” he told Mahopac News. “[The Town Board] blew it.”
Barnett said that with a short week due to the Fourth of July holiday, the professional hired for the depredation faced logistical challenges and was unable to put his team together quickly enough to execute the plan. Now, it’s too late. Schmitt confirmed Barnett’s contention.
“That’s true,” Schmitt said. “I spoke to the guy who does it to find out if there is an opportunity and he said there is not enough time. They have to get them while they are molting and that is just about done, and they will have their feathers soon and can fly again. He can’t get his crew to mobilize that fast and set everything in place. It’s not going to happen this year.
“We all learned a very good lesson,” the supervisor added. “I learned more about geese and got educated by talking to people. Before, I didn’t have enough information about the whole process, and I’ve learned a lot since then. I abstained, which is neither a yes nor a no vote because some view this as an inhumane thing.”