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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sandpoint’s inaugural City Beach goose hunt nets one bird; council sets dates for to repeat event in November

Canada geese pick for food under a tree at City Beach in Sandpoint in February 2002.  (Brian Plonka/The Spokesman-Review)

SANDPOINT – In an effort to control the goose population, the Sandpoint City Council on Wednesday approved another controlled hunt at Sandpoint City Beach Park for November after only one goose was killed during an initial hunt this winter.

Late last year, the council approved a hunt at the park on Lake Pend Oreille from mid-December to mid-January, the end of goose season. Out of more than 100 applicants, 21 names were drawn, and each hunter was allowed to bring three guest hunters. Each hunter was assigned one of seven mornings to participate.

At Wednesday’s meeting, police chief Corey Coon told the council that because of the cold weather, few geese were left in the park during the recent hunt, and he recommended the council move the hunt to earlier in the season.

Coon said he still considered the operation a success because it was well-planned and -executed, and they learned a lot for next time.

“I think at the end of the day we won,” he said. “We knew there wasn’t going to be a big harvest, it wasn’t going to be a big number taken.”

During the hunt, temperatures ranged from 23 degrees to 5 below zero, Coon said. The first day was the warmest, when one hunter killed and retrieved one goose.

After that, hunters reported seeing a few geese, but they weren’t close enough to shoot. And because of the cold weather, only one or two hunters showed up to some of the later hunts.

“They were happy to just sit out there in the wind and the cold,” he said. “Duck hunters are a different breed is what I learned.”

The city estimates there were about 250 geese living in the park in November. There were five geese in the park Wednesday afternoon.

In an effort to remove the geese and track their movements, from 2019 to 2021, the city captured, banded and relocated hundreds of geese to the southern end of Lake Coeur d’Alene. Many of these geese soon returned to the park.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service denied a relocation permit last year because of the prevalence of bird flu.

The one goose that was killed during the hunt was unbanded, Coon said, meaning either it was not among the geese that had been captured or was too young at the time to have been banded.

Coon said the police department learned that they could run the hunt safely without major disturbance to the community. Neighbors didn’t complain of the noise.

“We weren’t sure how much the sound was going to carry or be noise pollution, potentially,” he said. “And really, it wasn’t.”

Although they had a designated area, no protesters showed up.

“We had a couple people who wanted to walk the beach that weren’t happy the beach was closed, but that was it,” he said.

Coon said they can improve by tweaking the paperwork process and communicate better by posting more signage. The council’s early approval will give them more time to plan.

In a feedback email to Coon, one experienced hunter said this has been one of the most difficult waterfowl hunting seasons in North Idaho because of the prolonged cold. He recommended holding the hunt a month earlier before most of the birds leave when the bitter cold sets in and the grass is covered with snow.

In a 4-1 vote, the council approved the 2023 goose hunt to run from Nov. 1 to Dec. 2.

Councilman Andy Groat agreed the hunt was a success because of what was learned for future annual hunts.

“First time is always hard,” he said. “We will continue to learn and get better, addressing our constituents’ needs. This is exactly where we need to be.”

Justin Dick, the councilmember who voted against the resolution, said he wished there was more scientific evidence proving that there is more E. coli at the beach compared to other lakes in the region. However, he also applauded how the event was safely conducted by the police department, parks department and city staff.

“I may not agree with how this is going on,” he said. “I do appreciate the level of concern and management that your team and the city staff have for this, so thank you.”

One person, Amelia Boyd, spoke during the public comment period. She worked on how to deal with the goose feces when she was a member of the parks commission five years ago. Boyd said she hopes the council will continue working to rectify the situation.

“Whether or not the science is there, it’s disgusting,” she said. “And I don’t think our children should be walking through the feces at City Beach.”

Dick, who owns the restaurant Trinity at City Beach next to the park, is well aware of the fecal problem. In an interview, he said he has been through many mitigation attempts, including allowing dogs on the lawn in front of the restaurant and positioning fake coyotes, which he said worked only temporarily.

But he said the City Council still hasn’t tried everything, and that there are less lethal tools available. For example, motion-sensor beacons that are barely noticeable to humans, yet irritate the geese.

It might take “a plethora” of tools to keep the park clean.

Dick said he is a gun owner who doesn’t hunt but doesn’t have any problems with hunting.

“I don’t necessarily think having guns on public property that gets lots of foot traffic as well as vehicle use, is the best way of action,” he said.

The hunt didn’t give him any problems at the restaurant, however. They couldn’t hear any gunfire.

“It was much ado about nothing to be perfectly honest.”

James Hanlon's reporting for The Spokesman-Review is funded in part by Report for America and by members of the Spokane community. This story can be republished by other organizations for free under a Creative Commons license. For more information on this, please contact our newspaper’s managing editor.