Another battle may be brewing over the use of fatal methods to minimize goose populations in Madison parks - this time at Vilas, where geese have long been pegged as a problem.
A draft report prepared by a consultant for consideration by the Vilas Park Waterfowl Advisory Group includes "hunting" and goose round-ups among the management options under consideration.
There are lots of other listed options - from habitat alteration to the use of dogs, effigies and repellents - and the draft report notes downsides to lethal approaches (i.e., "some public relations issues may occur"). Still, the inclusion of these options is creating some blowback, as did a Parks Division plan to capture and kill geese at Warner Park over concerns about aircraft safety.
"I'm not convinced that killing geese at Vilas Park is any more of a solution that killing geese at Warner Park," says working group member Peter Cannon, president of the Madison Audubon Society. His view is that killing birds should be considered only as a last resort, "and we are not convinced we are anywhere near [this threshold] yet."
The goose reduction plan, which also includes references to ducks and gulls, is part of a larger strategy to improve water quality at Vilas. Other efforts include treating water with ultraviolet light and microfiltration.
Kirsti Sorsa of Public Health-Madison and Dane County says Vilas and Olin led the city last season with 43 and 41 beach closings, respectively, due to bacteria. She says the problem has been exacerbated by cutbacks in staffing at the Parks Division, as there is now less raking of beaches to remove bird droppings.
Sue Josheff of the state Department of Natural Resources stresses that the draft report is a work in progress, subject to extensive revision. She even sent an email to group members notifying them of her intent to release it to Isthmus.
"My thought is we intended to involve the public," Josheff wrote. "Though I would have liked to have been further along in the plan before sharing it, to withhold it would only elevate the issue."
Parks Division spokeswoman Laura Whitmore notes that the city is soliciting public input on goose management, after the brouhaha at Warner. (The eradication plan there is on hold pending further review.) One public hearing has already been held, on geese and golf courses, and another is planned, on goose management in general parklands.
"We want everyone's opinion," she says, "not just a few."