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Washington’s plan for getting the geese off the grass

Tim Fitzsimons May 11, 2015
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Washington’s plan for getting the geese off the grass

Tim Fitzsimons May 11, 2015
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The National Mall in Washington, D. C., has a fowl problem: Canada geese, and lots of them. These large migratory waterfowl are increasingly non-migratory thanks to relocation and hunting efforts. The roughly 3 pounds of droppings each can produce in one day can cause fish kills in ponds, and could even clog the newly-renovated reflecting pool.

“There’s times of the year, when you walk over the Washington Monument grounds, there’s not a place for you to put down a picnic blanket without feeling disgusting,” says Michael Stachowicz, the National Park Service’s turf management specialist.

That’s why the government is asking for bids on a contract to have border collies (and their handlers) patrol the Mall. 

Stachowicz used to work for golf courses, and that’s where he first witnessed how effective border collies are for humane goose population control. “They go in this crouch,” Stachowicz explains, “it’s really amazing to watch these border collies transform from a great dog into something that looks really predatory and wolf-like.”

That stance, according to Doug Marcks, is called “the eye.” The eye is basically the border collies’ trade secret. It’s part of the whole pantomime these dogs like to play with geese. And play is the key word—border collies are happy without ever actually grabbing the geese. They just enjoy terrorizing them.

Doug Marcks runs Geese Police DC, which is a franchise of the larger Geese Police company, based in Illinois. He and his two border collies Max and Bell drive around the D.C. area every day and make pit stops at clients—usually large, grassy corporate campuses and the like. After enough harassment, the geese fly away at the sight of Marcks’s white pickup truck. And eventually they find a new place to live.

The NPS says the dogs will likely become a permanent fixture on the National Mall.

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