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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sandpoint gases 170 Canada geese for pooping on beach

The city of Sandpoint had 170 geese killed Friday because they were pooping on a public beach.

Mayor Shelby Rognstad did not respond to an interview request, but he provided a short comment as part of a written statement on the goose killing signed by city administrator Jennifer Stapleton.

“The city and its residents value wildlife,” Rognstad wrote. “City Beach, however, is a public park, not a wildlife sanctuary.”

Canada geese have caused Sandpoint officials headaches for 20 years.

City Beach, which Sandpoint describes as the “crown jewel” of its parks system, is full of sand and short grass. That makes it prime goose habitat, and the birds flock to it by the dozens and hundreds.

When the geese waddle out of Lake Pend Oreille , they poop on the beach. The city says all of that poop is unacceptable because it creates a public health issue and deters people from visiting a public park.

In its statement, Sandpoint said it tried numerous methods of dealing with goose poop and attempted to keep the waterfowl off the beach before resorting to killing them.

The city put up signs to discourage feeding the birds, bought special equipment to pick up feces and tried to scare the animals away with dogs and decoys. Nothing worked, the city says.

Jane Fritz, a local activist and environmental writer, said the city’s attempt to use dogs to scare the birds away was poorly executed and short-lived. She also disputes whether the geese pose a public health risk and rejects the claim that people avoid the beach due to goose poop.

Fritz said she’s disgusted that Sandpoint had 170 geese killed.

“I’m kind of sick to my stomach right now,” she said. “These geese are just victims of human stupidity.”

At one point, Sandpoint consulted with GeesePeace, a goose management nonprofit. GeesePeace recommended oiling the birds’ eggs, to prevent them from hatching, and destroying nests. The city says the geese don’t nest in the city limits, though, so those weren’t feasible options.

Sandpoint’s statement also emphasizes that it tried capturing and relocating geese in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Wildlife Services, a federal agency within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, caught the birds, placed identifying bands on their legs and transported them away from the city before releasing them. Many of the same geese reappeared weeks later, though.

In 2022 and 2023, Wildlife Services and the Idaho Department of Fish and Game advised against relocating geese due to concern about the spread of avian flu.

Last fall, the city held a goose hunt on the beach, but only one hunter shot a bird. Sandpoint plans to hold another hunt this year.

Sandpoint’s war on geese took a turn this month when Rognstad on June 15 signed a contract with Wildlife Services to kill the birds.

City staff wouldn’t say whether Rognstad made the decision with the City Council’s approval, but Stapleton’s statement says the mayor “administratively approved the work authorization.” Sandpoint City Council members Kate McAlister, Deb Ruehle, Joel Aispuro, Andy Groat, Jason Welker and Justin Dick did not respond to requests for comment.

The city’s Wildlife Services contract says Sandpoint paid $5,000 for the lethal removal.

The contract says Wildlife Services corralled the geese. Jared Hedelius, Wildlife Services’ Idaho director, said staff killed them with carbon dioxide gas.

Ralph Kerr, president of the Coeur d’Alene chapter of the Audubon Society, said he doesn’t have a strong position on the geese killing, in part because Canada geese can be legally hunted and aren’t endangered.

Fritz said Sandpoint could have done a lot more to keep the geese off the beach without killing them.

“They never chose very good options, and yet they’ll say they’ve used every option,” she said.

Killing the geese isn’t a permanent solution, Fritz said. The sand and grass of City Beach will keep attracting them like a magnet.

“More geese will come,” she said. “Is this just going to be an ongoing slaughter of innocent lives?”