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October 31st, 2012 MARTY SMITH | Dr. Know
 

Dr. Know: Fine Feathered Feces

Does goose poop represent a significant health threat?

drknowILLUSTRATION: Hawk Krall

Let’s talk goose poop: Every park and walkway near the Willamette River is covered with the stuff. Is it any health threat to people and pets? —Thomas C.

Before I answer, I’d like to formally disapprove of the recent spate of questioners signing their real names.

It’s traditional in agony columns (and this column is nothing if not agony) to sign yourself “Anxious” or “Puzzled in Portland” or “Chauncey McHandjob Mellencamp.” So I hope you don’t mind, Tom, if, for the remainder of this piece, I address you as “Dildo Baggins.”

Anyway, it’s not your imagination: Oregon’s Canada goose population—much like the bowels of its constituent geese—is exploding, with 250,000 individuals residing here for at least a portion of the year.

To put that figure into perspective: Each goose takes about two pounds’ worth of dumps per day. Let’s say they’re here for five months—a conservative estimate, since many hang around like unemployed relatives all year long.

That means every two years, these uninvited visitors produce enough crap to make a pile equivalent in weight—if not in architectural charm—to downtown Portland’s U.S. Bancorp Tower. 

Is all this poop dangerous? Hard to say. On the one hand, goose feces (like, it must be acknowledged, most feces) are not exactly hospital clean. They often contain E. coli, salmonella, and that bugbear of the Portland Water Bureau, cryptosporidium.

Then again, according to the proceedings of the Oregon Geese Control Task Force, there’s never been a documented case of a human being actually becoming ill through this goose-ass-to-human-mouth vector.

That may be because most people have the sense not to eat goose excrement, wallow in it, or massage it into open wounds. I doubt this anomalous display of good judgment on the public’s part will last, though, so enjoy it while you can.


Questions? Send them to dr.know@wweek.com
 
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