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August 31, 2010 > Quarry Lakes: sharing a community resource

Quarry Lakes: sharing a community resource

By Fina Mora

Swimming is a pleasant recreational past time, especially with the available use of facilities at Quarry Lakes, operated by East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD). But for some visitors to Quarry Lakes, sharing the area has become a problem. Geese, or Branta Canadensis, are very common birds, having a population growth of 10-17 percent annually nationwide. Thriving in habitats of parks and lakes, it is no wonder geese are literally everywhere and sometimes use a habitat in total, for resting, eating and toilet, conflicting with human visitors.

Quarry Lakes personnel are aware of this potential problem, especially when swimming facilities are shared between humans and fowl. The issue is to maintain a pleasant and safe environment for all concerned. Doug Bell, EBRPD Wildlife Program Manager says, "Quarry Lakes has a company that brings in very well trained dogs of active herders, serving essentially as a scare factor for the geese. Dogs arrive on an irregular schedule so that the geese cannot figure out when the dogs are coming."

Geese have excellent homing capabilities and return to the same nesting site, even if their nest has been damaged or removed. They are very territorial and will attack if threatened, flying up to speeds of 50 miles per hour. Park personnel try to discourage nesting and growth of the population by preventing successful reproduction at Quarry Lakes. "To prevent the geese from hatching, we apply solid oil to the shells, preventing reproduction," says Bell. "The goal is to fool the geese. Nesting is a natural instinct of all birds. If the eggs and nest are removed before the goose has satisfied this instinct, she will simply build another nest and lay additional eggs."

Eggs are not the only thing geese leave behind. An adult goose can drop over two pounds of fecal matter daily, relieving itself when fed every six to eight minutes. Geese fecal matter not only smells bad, but can also cause a lot of damage including alteration of aquatic ecology, leading to an increase of bacterial infection and algae. Although Quarry Lakes discourages excessive goose reproduction, Bell says, "In general, there has never been direct evidence of geese feces affecting humans, so if people are worried, there have been no discoveries."

"The water is tested weekly for toxic levels and has been in compliance with state standard levels consistently," says Neal Fujita, EBRPD Water Resources Manager. To those who express concern about side effects of a large goose population, Bell says there is only so much EBRPD can do. "The geese are protected under federal and state laws, but a decision was recently made to view coastal counties [like Quarry Lakes] as different managements [to give] us more freedom with what land managers can do. In the past, we had to get permits passed in compliance with the California Department of Fish and Games and the U.S. Federal Government."

With large budget deficits, the park has seen cuts. "The district is very aware of the geese situation, but there is a constant balance to keep the geese numbers down combined with as much cleanup as the budget allows," said Bell.

Nesting season falls during the summer months when human visitor counts are high, so Bell offers the following advice, "When visiting parks, do not feed the geese - do not feed any animal. It encourages the geese because they receive a good food source, encouraging them to remain, leading to an increase [of population]."

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