Seven years ago, the South Waterfront Greenway was anything but green.
The strip of field along the Willamette was beyond patchy. It was downright balding—the large brown patches of dirt weren’t just an eyesore, they could lead to erosion problems along the riverbank if left unattended. And if that were not bad enough, the carefully planted native trees and shrubs as well as a paved walkway were completely coated in bird droppings.
The culprits? Hundreds of resident and migratory geese.
Flocks had settled into the area and weren’t budging for anyone. Who do you call about a gaggle of hostile squatters known to hiss and charge at any human in their way? Geese Guys (geeseguys.com), a 10-year-old company that relies on a crew of 30 to 40 border collies to get those birds on the move without putting them in harm’s way.
“Humanness is one of our important pillars,” says Geese Guys general manager and lead wildlife biologist Vance Kimball. “Anytime we’re operating, that’s our No. 1 concern—animal welfare, with the geese and the dogs.”
Kimball says border collies are ideal for goose abatement for several reasons. First, they are trained herders. Second, dogs are far more effective in flock relocation than other common suppression methods, like decoys or noisemakers, because they can mimic predator behavior, reducing the chances that geese will return to a particular golf course, park or schoolyard.
“It triggers something primal in the brain that elicits the response we’re looking for,” says Kimball, “which is the goose figuring it’s not worth it here.”
It took about two years to get the South Waterfront Greenway to a point where Geese Guys was satisfied with the landscape. Now the property is in maintenance mode, where a Goose Dog comes out to walk the property three or four times a week during summer and multiple times a day once nesting and migration season begin.
It’s not just large properties or sites with big budgets that Geese Guys will assist. Kimball has advised everyone from private homeowners to public facilities with shoestring budgets.
“We have a growing resident [goose] population, a shifting migratory population, and a growing human population taking up more room, so there’s more conflict happening, which is basically why we came to be,” Kimball explains. “There’s so much conflict, somebody needed to make sure it was getting handled.”