BALLWIN — After trying nearly everything to get ride of unwanted geese, some St. Louis-area towns have gone to the dogs.
Missouri has an estimated 50,000 to 75,000 Canada geese, according to the Missouri Department of Conservation. They can damage landscaping, act menacingly and make a big mess. An adult goose generates about a pound of waste per day.
Rib Bolton founded Humane Goose Management about a year ago. He already has about a dozen clients — mostly subdivisions and businesses with ponds and at least an acre of short grass.
Bolton uses two border collie mixes to run around and herd geese into flight or into the middle of water. The dogs swim after them, and then Bolton uses a remote-controlled toy boat to steer the geese toward the dogs. The geese eventually fly away.
On a recent morning, one of the dogs, Serengeti, or "Geti" for short, bounded off a golf cart and searched the woods at the edge of the Ballwin Golf Course fairway. A few weeks before, Geti chased a flock of two dozen geese at the course. They were now nowhere in sight.
"We are training the geese to go someplace where they are welcome," Bolton told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Ballwin had tried other methods ranging from fireworks to owl decoys, even stringing mylar grids across ponds to make it difficult for the geese to swim.
St. Louis is a particularly popular place for geese because of the abundance of rivers and vast suburbs.
"We are battling to get them out of the area we created," Bolton said.
So far, the dogs seem to be working.
"This is by far the most effective method to get rid of them we've come across," Kirkwood Parks and Recreation Director Murray Pounds said.
Kirkwood spends about $6,500 per year for the services of Gateway Goose Control, another local company that uses border collies, Pounds said.
State conservation wildlife biologist Tom Meister said the method works but has drawbacks. While cities solve their geese problem, they often do so at the expense of a neighbor.
"If you chase geese out of Ballwin, where do they go?" he said.
Proponents say the method is humane, and the displaced geese may settle in a place where they don't bother anyone.
"There are lots of places they can go," said Nancy Schnell, the coordinator of the St. Louis chapter of GeesePeace, founded in 2001 over concerns about how cities were rounding up geese.
The city of St. Louis captured and killed roughly 70 geese in 2004. GeesePeace argued that was pointless because more geese would just take their place.
St. Louis now pays Gateway Goose Control roughly $30,000 a year for border collies to chase geese from two of its parks.
Denise Shaiper, who owns Gateway Goose Control, has been in the business for about nine years. She has nine clients and doesn't seem to mind having a new competitor.
"There's enough work for several companies," she said.