Park's geese no match for canine crew

It had already been a long day on the job, but Juno the dog wasn't going to let those geese hang around in her park.

"Catch 'em, go on," coaxed her owner, Mike Ritcey, as Juno trotted toward the birds, head low and nose to the ground.

"Good pup, fetch 'em up."

About 15 geese were enjoying themselves on a field at the northwest corner of McArthur Island at around 4 in the afternoon.

Juno was tired. The four-year-old golden Labrador had already spent nine hours vigorously chasing gaggles large and small from all corners of the park.

"First thing at daylight, it was just unbelievable," said Ritcey. "There wasn't a goose in the field, she was going around and around so fast."

Juno is the latest weapon in the never-ending battle to rid Mac Island of goose droppings.

She and her owner planned to spend two days at the park this week, from dawn to dusk, frightening away the estimated 700 geese that gather daily. The process is called hazing and it's a harmless way of controlling problem geese.

"In the Okanagan, it's a big thing, the hazing of geese," said Ritcey, a retired paramedic who has worked in the past to trap and relocate McArthur Island's marmots.

"Vernon, Penticton, Kelowna, they all have people that do it. And down on the Coast, too."

City parks supervisor Shawn Cook said goose droppings are not only a nuisance but also a health issue.

The volume of droppings created by such large numbers of geese has made the park "increasingly unsafe and unacceptable for kids to play on, or for when we host tournaments as part of the Tournament Capital program," he said.

The City has tried other ways to discourage the geese from populating the fields, but none have proved successful.

"They're going to give this a try and see if it works," said Ritcey. "And I think it really will work."

The process is slow and tedious to start.

Ritcey and Juno will spend two weeks at the park, pushing the geese off the property. The birds will return less frequently as the days pass.

"Then they'll learn this is not a good place to be and they'll move on," said Ritcey.

It may only take those two weeks for the majority of the birds to change their behaviour.

At that point, Ritcey estimates he and Juno will only need to spend two hours a day hazing the stragglers and keeping the park clean of droppings.

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