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The Tentacle


April 2, 2004

A Real Expensive Wild Goose Chase

David 'Kip' Koontz

Every so many years it seems as if the problem of geese and/or ducks surrounding Culler Lake in Baker Park comes to the fore.

It appears as if 2004 is one of those years.

This year, however, the problem seems to be mostly Canadian geese that are plaguing not only the Culler Lake area, but Whittier Lake and Clustered Spires Golf Course, as well.

Where have they all come from?

It seems as if Frederick makes a pretty nice home-at least for Canadian geese.

You have to wonder if they paid an impact fee to move here.

But unlike many of the "new folk" that have moved here only as a result of "new construction," there is a nifty plan proposed by the city to get rid of these interlopers---border collies!

Anyone who knows anything at all about science and nature knows that one of the great animal rivalries is the one between the Canadian goose and the Border collie, right?

Wasn't there a program on the Discovery Channel about it? Or was it on "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom?"

Whichever, it clearly illustrated that through the world's evolutionary period, Canadian geese and border collies became bitter rivals ever since they were first pitted against each other for territorial space in the Canadian landscape.

Eventually the French ended up taming the land over which the two disputed, thus pushing the Border collie and the Canada goose south-many ending up right here in Frederick.

It has been said that there are many tales about early settlers of the region taking note of the "curious situation between these collies and these geese," which is claimed to have been a notation made by John Thomas Schley as he first came into what is now known as Frederick.

One historian has suggested that Mr. Schley considered moving on from the banks of the Carroll Creek as he is supposed to have said, "Between the infernal yapping of the dogs and the hissing of the geese, this may not be the idyllic place for our homestead as we had hoped."

Later, Jacob Engelbrecht, known for his diary of his life in Frederick is thought to have written some little known entries in that diary about how town leaders were attempting to deal with the "issue of the geese from Canada and border collies that seemingly never stop going at one another over that plat of marshland just west of town and east of Shifferstadt, that at times scares many a man, woman and child alike."

There are those who have said that when General Stonewall Jackson marched through Frederick, he wrote in his diary: "We must leave this infernal town at the utmost as the disturbance created by those geese and those dogs is even worse than the one caused by that Fritchie woman waving that blasted flag."

And there are those who say that during the development and construction of Baker Park there was a great fear stemming from the idea of creating a "lake" for, as some said, "It will simply become a haven for those geese and the problem may never end."

Over time, however, the Border collie was domesticated and became a nice dog for a pet and show dog and Canada agreed to re-open its borders to allow the return of more of their geese which alleviated, to a great degree, the border collie/Canada goose "problem."

Some insist that the decline in the problem came about as a result of the two animals being used for tests at Fort Detrick during the Cold War.

Be that as it may, we are in 2004 and the Canada goose problem is back with a vengeance-and it has expanded.

It is suggested these geese are direct descendents of those early geese, the ones who came here all those long years ago.

The geese make messes, they hiss at you if you come too close, and can become, to some degree-a menace.

They are rumored to, late at night, gather round and begin singing "O Canada!" even.

The city wants to get rid of them.

Ideas have been bandied about.

One little known idea was encouraging neighbors to run around the lakes in question swatting at the geese with brooms and flyswatters, but that didn't float well with the general public as it would be too time consuming-though potentially good exercise.

Another idea was to have crowds surround the lakes and the golf course and chant negative comments about the geese, attempting to intimidate them into leaving.

Officials at Clustered Spires are said, however, to have complained that would upset the quiet nature of the sport and disturb the golfers.

Some experts say that, for some reasons, the construction of a grocery store near where the geese are a problem may scare them away.

Of course, we can't do that on a golf course or in Baker Park, and, well, we know there won't be a grocery store in Whittier anytime soon.

Wonder if the theory holds true with a Starbucks?

So, in desperation the city has come up with the idea of pitting those two natural enemies, the Border collie and the Canadian goose, against one another in what they hope will be an end to this troubling problem.

Upon hearing of the natural dislike of these two creatures, it has been rumored that Gov. Robert Ehrlich temporarily seized upon the idea and discussed the possibility of opening "Canada goose versus border collie" parlors across the state-the hope of which the proceeds would go toward balancing the budget.

Mayor Jennifer Dougherty is rumored to have said she could round up the geese and serve "Canadian goose pot pie," at Jennifer's Restaurant, if, of course you'd be fortunate enough to obtain a coupon for a "buy one get one half price dinner" from a local department store-given out only when you open a charge account, of course.

Those ideas were quickly sunk as it is not legal to kill a Canadian goose as they are classified as endangered-why is anyone's guess.

You have to wonder how effective this plan is going to be.

Take for instance, another plan the city has undertaken to remove birds from downtown trees.

You have to know the one; it occurs every spring and autumn.

City trucks drive around town shooting huge flares into the sky that end with a big bang.

Another employee cranks a machine that makes a screeching hoot-like noise, which is said to imitate a scared bird, while another makes a simple rattle, clanking, banging noise.

The plan does scare the birds away-temporarily.

It also scares the bird's waste out of them at a more rapid clip, which makes more of the mess the city is attempting to avoid in the first place.

Not long after the Dr. Seuss-like noise mobile rumbles past, the birds return to the trees waiting for the next go 'round.

The seeming ineptness of this plan led, to a wholesale removal of downtown trees which seems to have worked better at removing the birds.

Did we ever stop to think why the birds would flock into downtown Frederick? It might not have anything to do with the destruction of trees elsewhere, or maybe it might.

To that end the city is looking to invest up to $10,000-plus, on this Border collie program.

The city will have to change the leash law to accommodate the fact that the dogs must be off their leash in the park in order to chase the geese.

Might it not just be simpler to get that crocodile hunter fellow to come to Frederick and wrestle the geese into submission?

One must presume the city-employed dogs will have to be housed in kennels someplace and monitored so that they are in tip-top-shape, geese-chasing abilities at all times.

Does the 10K cover the cost of handlers, boarding the borders, the veterinarian bills, the food, and the collie-whisperers?

It is nice to sometimes think outside the box when it comes to solving problems, but this plan comes at an expense and in a budget that is tight, can we afford it?

In Baker Park, at least, a more strict enforcement of the "DO NOT FEED" policy would help, but of course, Jesse Goode can't be at all places at all times.

Well, be that as it may, guess we will all just have to get our lawn chairs, go to the lake and watch to see what happens.

A betting man might bet that the dogs will chase, the geese will go onto the lake and sit and stare back out at the dogs.

They might even fly away.

But the odds might be that as soon as the dogs leave, the geese will come back.

After all, they have a long history together and for them, it might just be sport.



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