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Animal control office’s dog loves a wild goose chase

Posted: June 20, 2017

by Erica Peterson


Anyone in Northeast Ohio who has taken a walk near Canada geese knows that what they leave behind can be annoying.


It can also be abundant. Just ask Independence Animal Control Officer Judy Burrier, who is tasked with keeping the city’s pool and ball field areas goose-free.


“An average goose can eat up to four  pounds of grass a day, and what goes in must come out; they can drop up to three pounds of feces a day, or defecate 92 times in one day,” Burrier said. “That is a lot of goose poop!” 


Goose droppings are also a health risk, as they can spread parasites and bacteria including e.coli, listeria and salmonella. 


“They also can carry viruses such as avian flu and some forms of fungus. Therefore, they do pose a risk to the general public,” Burrier said.


With a pond right next to the city’s outdoor pool beckoning the migratory birds, Burrier has her work cut out for her. Canada geese are federally protected, but there are some things that can be done to make the area undesirable to them.


One of the most successful is the use of dogs trained to chase geese. Burrier works with Millie, a 5-year-old rescued Australian shepherd she owns and trains. This is the third Australian shepherd she has used for the city’s goose management program. 


“I love working with dogs and seeing what I can do with them,” she said. 


Her first dog, Spinner, was a purebred that was a “natural” at chasing geese, she said. Her second dog, Tess, was a rescue that was “worth her weight in gold as far as a goose dog.” Both dogs, now over 14 years old, are enjoying retirement.


Millie is trained to chase the geese, both on land and in the water, and to not harm them if she does happen to catch one, Burrier said. 


“Millie did chase an injured duck out of the pond this past year, and I was able to get it and take it to the Lake Erie Nature and Science Center for treatment,” she said. “She will in no way harm an animal.”


While Millie is effective, she has her limitations. It’s hard for a single dog to chase a group of geese off the water if they don’t want to leave; they can just fly to the other side of the pond, Burrier said.


“A dog can get worn out chasing them back and forth,” she said.


Also, the geese can become familiar with her. 


“It is hard to have one method for harassing Canada geese,” Burrier said. “They become acclimated to different methods, so several must be used.”


So, she has other tools.


“In accordance with ODNR [Ohio Department of Natural Resources] guidelines, I employ other methods such as pyrotechnics, laser pointers and coyote statues, all which the geese can become accustomed to quite quickly if used by themselves,” Burrier said.


Battling the geese is a year long process, but the most important time is in the spring, when they are laying eggs. 


“While the ODNR does allow for methods of removing geese, its easiest and most cost effective is to keep them from nesting in an area in the first place,” she said.


More than geese


Burrier has worked with animals all her life. She was a veterinary technician before becoming Independence’s animal control officer in 2002.


“I have always dealt with animals, from having ponies and horses when I was growing up and several dogs and cats, chickens, goats, lizards and birds, along with some other critters,” she said. “I was constantly bringing stray or unwanted animals home.”


That was good practice to be an animal control officer, as she has to wear many hats. Unlike a dog warden, Burrier deals with all domestic and wild animal problems. 


“I have had several unusual calls, from a huge snapping turtle that crawled up on a resident’s deck and was literally trying to get in through a sliding glass door, to removing an owl out of a fireplace, to three black snakes being caught in deer fencing, to a 4-foot long iguana hanging out in a resident’s tree,” Burrier said. 


Her job also includes nuisance trapping, which she said she uses as a last resort. She much prefers talking to residents to help them find humane solutions to problems.


“Educating people is probably one of the most important aspects I fulfill in my job,” Burrier said. “Being next to a national park brings us a lot of variety of wildlife, from the normal raccoon, opossum and squirrels getting into attics, but also turkeys, weasels, hawks and falcons.


“I educate residents to prevent animals from becoming an issue. It is possible to live with wildlife around us.” 


The Animal Control Office can be reached at 216-524-3940. 


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