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Sharon Lets Dogs Out to Fight Geese at Beach

The recreation department has hired a border collie service to chase the fowl away.

Two Border Collies run into Sharon’s Lake Massapoag roughly twice a day, and that’s prompting squawking.

The geese are afraid.

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. Deni says Devins gets $20 per call, with the deal subject to ending anytime.

“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.”

Dwight Mac Kerron August 06, 2012 at 11:19 AM
The geese cruised in through the pines and out onto the water, just off shore around seven last night. They were an impressive sight, but what they leave behind is not so impressive. I have heard that people used to collect horse manure off the street to fertilize their gardens, but no one seems to be standing in line for the droppings in question here.
Dwight Mac Kerron August 06, 2012 at 11:29 AM
Do the dogs come just when the lifeguards are not on duty? I have nothing against the dogs chasing the geese, but from what I see here, it would be more cost effective to have the life-guards chase the geese offshore with sticks, or would that be to "inhumane?" Make it part of the job description.
Gail Devins August 08, 2012 at 02:18 AM
Even if it were okay for the lifeguards to chase the geese off with a stick, the geese eventually become unaffected by the lifeguards' actions and stay on the beach. The Border Collies resemble the natural predator of the Canada goose which is the arctic fox. When the geese see the Border Collies, they leave in fear of their lives..even thou the Border Collies will never harm the geese as the dogs are herders not hunters.
Dwight Mac Kerron August 08, 2012 at 03:29 AM
The geese probably do not care for our own foxes, either, ones they may have actually seen (and lost eggs and goslings to) in their lifetime, not just in vestigal memory. But in any case, I see the geese heading out into the water more than fleeing for their lives. I have had dogs chase geese into the water, but once in the water, the geese just toy with them. Anyway, good luck keeping them away, but I fear they will outlast all our efforts. We need resourceful, hungry folks to come in, net them, and eventually eat them. Let's suggest to Mass. Wildlife that there be a netting season for Canada Geese.
Bradford Devins August 08, 2012 at 05:05 PM
Dwight, there are multiple laws that forbid your idea of harnessing the geese and.... eating them. I have seen Gail work in Sharon and the work is certainly effective, especially from others' points of views. Your theory would realistically work in the 1950's / 40's, but not in our day and age.
Dwight Mac Kerron August 08, 2012 at 09:26 PM
I suppose that I should have put a smiley face after my suggestion, because, of course you are right that this is 2012. If the dogs are really working, more power to them and Gail, but my experience is that the geese do pretty much what they want to do, most of the time.

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