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City deals with scourge of geese on beach

With flowering rush at least temporarily under control, the next front in the war for the mile-long  Detroit Lakes City Beach is to go after the geese and ducks that sometimes flock there.

“I think there are about 30 geese this year — it’s kind of a mess, but we are trying to do something about that,” said Detroit Lakes Public Works Director Brad Green.

“It’s a tough spot to be in, because we have to follow the laws — they are a protected migratory waterfowl.”

City officials have received some complaints about the geese this summer — mostly about the mess they leave behind on the beach, Green said.

“People shouldn’t feed them — we discourage that,” he said.

“They like the short-cut grass — long grass usually stops them,” he added.

“Manicured lawns are notorious for attracting geese,” and so is a well-maintained beach, Green said.

The problem is not unique to the city beach. Officials in Alexandria and Fergus Falls have also been dealing with the issue, Green said, and it’s a longstanding problem at golf courses.

Some golf courses have gone so far as to use trained dogs to keep the geese away, he noted.

Dogs are not allowed on the city beach.

City staff does their best to shoo the geese away, firing blanks or “firecracker guns” to scare them off, Green said, but then they fly to the other side of the lake and residents there aren’t shy about chasing them away, so they end up back on the city beach, he said.

Coots, which are involved in causing swimmer’s itch, are also a problem on the beach in the fall.

Coots and geese both congregate on the city beach during hunting season because it has been a safe haven for them, Green said.

There are several approaches the city is considering in its war against waterfowl.

One is to ask the DNR to net, band and remove the young birds before they can fly.

Another is to ask special permission from the DNR and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to hunt the birds.

In that case, the city would likely use city police officers or other trained professionals who also like to hunt, in order to best protect public safety, Green said.

“We had a couple people asking if they could hunt on the beach this year,” Green said. “We said no.”

It’s been a long time since waterfowl were hunted on Detroit Lake. This newspaper’s former outdoors columnist, Bernie Revering, wrote about bird hunting on the lake in the 1940s.

“It’s kind of too late this year, but next year we’ll be getting real serious about it,” Green said. “We’ll work with the federal wetland authorities and get the right permits and such.”

Meanwhile, a busy beach is the best defense against the birds. With the recent hot spell, the beach has been crowded and there has been no sign of the geese, Green said.