A new initiative by the Columbia Parks and Recreation Department will attempt to control and reduce the goose population at Stephens Lake Park.
The swimming beach will be closed until April 15, allowing time for construction of a silt fence to prevent erosion and reduce the number of geese in the area. The department will also use artificial harassment techniques, such as simulated shotgun blasts from a propane-run cannon, and chemicals to keep geese away. The chemicals will not have any effect on humans.
The city is working with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on the initiative.
“If we don’t do something now, it will become a problem in the future,” said Mike Griggs, park services manager for the city. “We’re sending a message that they’re not welcome.”
The silt fence will act as a barrier to geese, which tend to move back and forth between water and the shore during their flightless molting season. Griggs said similar measures have been used successfully in other Columbia-area parks.
“Stephens Lake probably has the largest goose population of all the parks,” said Jim Loveless, a wildlife management biologist with the Missouri Department of Conservation. “Geese are very traditional — the young stay where they learn to fly.”
The population of Canada geese has continued to increase in urban areas, where they have often become a nuisance to local residents. Not only do they eat large amounts of grass and other plants, but geese leave feces which can become an eyesore for park visitors and raise levels of fecal coliform in water.
While Stephens Lake is safe for swimmers now, Griggs said it is important to take steps to prevent worsening water quality.
“That’s our goal,” Griggs said. “To keep the water quality safe.”