A lone Canada goose preened its feathers and plopped down comfortably as Pinnacle 1 golf balls landed nearby on the Green Lane playing fields.
“I don’t think that one goose did all this,” Kerri Matthes, rugby captain and junior biology major, said, pointing out a dried piece of excrement.
It was one of a scattering of old droppings and a few new ones still green and dark with moisture, on the field where the rugby players sit down to stretch, tackle each other to the ground and carefully place their hands to do pushups.
“People think girl rugby players are all manly and don’t get grossed out, but when we walked up here we were like ‘this is disgusting,'” she said. “Within 20 minutes, you’re sitting in it.”
To combat the overpopulation of geese and abundance of droppings on campus, the College hired Karen Cox, her six Australian cattle dogs, her border collie and her yellow battery-powered mini speed boat to harass the geese into finding new homes.
According to Don Blauth, project specialist of Grounds and Landscaping Services; the College hosts anywhere from 500 to1,000 of the birds at any time. Each Canada goose drops about two pounds of cigar-shaped turds each day.
“They’re a nuisance,” Blauth said. “Just the droppings alone are not only unsightly, but could also be a health issue.”
Stamps on the side of the grey mini van and on the owner’s yellow hat read “Who ya gonna call? Goose Busters.”
“My Australian Cattle Dog is smarter than your honor student,” a bumper sticker on the back claimed.
“You’re gonna have to go all the way down,” the six-year experienced goose patroller, who prefers to be called “Karen Cattledog” rather than her last name, instructed 12-year-old Dingo, her oldest dog.
He looked back at her, as if for reassurance, and then bounded at geese grazing in the distance on Lake Sylva’s bank.
“This whole section used to be non-walkable, with goose poop from one end to the other,” she said.
At the sound of Dingo’s bark and a goose’s warning honk, the large black-necked birds flapped their wings and skimmed into the lake as fishermen and College students strolled by sprouting daffodils in the warm early spring air.
“They’re very sticky this time of year,” the cattle dogs’ owner said.
Late March and early April are mating season months for Canada geese, so they lay claim to certain spots on the edge of the lake. Also, the females are so laden with eggs that they can only waddle.
Although one of the dogs likes to swim after them, the remote-control boat did the same job in frightening the birds away from their new landing spot on the other side of the lake.
When they saw the boat swerving threateningly at them, the geese took flight.
Sometimes the boat will scare the geese from one end of the lake to the opposite side where another group resides, Cox said. The two groups will fight, scaring off the birds in the middle.
Any combination of prize-winning Australian Cattle dogs Rainer, Kadi, Dingo, Sally, Tonka, Bux, Rainer and border collie Specs visit the campus at random times at least twice a day, 365 days per year.
“I can’t convince the geese to take weekends and holidays off,” Cox said.
Australian cattle dogs, an energetic breed that is a mix of dalmatian, collie and dingo, instinctively try to round up and bring the geese to their owner. Instead the geese fly away, so the dogs are trained to return to the owner.
The geese are attracted by the grass, lakes and, to an extent, by people feeding them. Cox hands out “Caution: Feeding Waterfowl may be harmful!” pamphlets issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to discourage goose feeders.
Not all College students are annoyed by the birds.
“I think they’re pretty,” Manisha Narang, junior sociology major, said. “Geese are on the campus because humans have displaced their habitat.”
The 1916 Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits the killing of Canada geese unless the zone is authorized by the Secretary of the Interior.
As the country’s geese population soared to about 3.5 million, some area governments began allowing hunters to kill the birds.
Dog use, grass treating, landscape reform and other scare tactics were developed as alternative ways to deter the birds from unwanted areas.
“I believe the current method of goose control at TCNJ is more humane than methods of euthanasia,” Andrew Morganate, Animal Rights New Jersey co-president, said. “It may be more effective in the long run to change the landscape along the lakes on campus.”
The goose busting crew also regularly visits the Marie Katzenbach School for the Deaf, Springdale Golf Course, New Jersey Manufacturers, Lawrence Shopping Center, and the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.
However, the College gets the best service, Cox said, because it is only two blocks from her home.
As for the rugby field, Cox said she scared about 100 geese from the fields about a month ago and was not sure why there is a problem.
She said lately there have not been a lot of geese on the Green Lane fields, although any geese are chased away. The geese could be spending the night, but geese usually prefer to settle down for the night at the lakes.
She urged anybody with goose slime problems to contact Blauth or ‘Karen and the goose busters.’