Aquidneck Island residents have been able to continue to enjoy outdoor activities such as walking trails and golf throughout the mild winter, but the one frustration that has outdoor enthusiasts talking is the large amount of goose droppings that are overwhelming the island.
“The geese look nice, but they are more of a nuisance than anything,” said Adam Zaccara, a Newport resident who works in Middletown. “They seem to stick to the shore-line, where you want to walk.”
When asked what he knows about the bird, he responded the knew they were a migratory bird.
Although this is a common belief, Fred MacDonald, a volunteer at the Sachuest Point National Wildlife refuge clarified that although they once migrated in the 1950s, the majority of the island's goose population are now year-round residents. MacDonald said that due to global warming, there is now ample food available for the geese year-round, so there is no longer a need for them to migrate.
Another common mistake is that people call them "Canadian Geese," but the correct reference is "Canada Geese," he explained.
“At the golf course it’s atrocious,” said Ken Lacey, owner of Easton’s Point Pub on Aquidneck Ave.
MacDonald explained this is because the geese eat grass, so they are attracted to large fields. He added that they congregate at country clubs in the late summer and early fall, when they molt, the process when birds shed their feathers.
In addition to country clubs, they have done a lot of damage to the local winter wheat crops, he said.
Lacey said that at his waterfront restaurant, they have only seen two geese, but the amount of droppings is overwhelming.
He is right to be concerned. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, geese produce heavy concentrations of fecal droppings which can lead to excess nutrient enrichment of ponds and lakes.
“They taste good,” Lacey said with a laugh when asked what he knew about the bird.
MacDonald explained that was another misconception. The French delicacy Foie Gras, or goose liver pate, is made by force feeding the bird through a funnel, to fatten the bird. He added that although it’s a controversial practice, and illegal in the United States, he heard the bird appears to enjoy the process.
"If they only tasted better, we wouldn't have such an issue," MacDonald said with a shrug. "Then they would be hunted. But nobody wants to hunt them."
MacDonald said there have been some state level pilot programs that train volunteers to oil the goose eggs, which prevent them from hatching. If the eggs are removed from the nest, the mother will just lay more eggs, he said.
He thinks the population will only continue to increase. Mating season will begin in late April, and each mother will lay four to eight eggs. Although coyotes may prey on a few, the geese do not have a natural predator, said MacDonald.