Disappearance of geese saddens and gladdens in New Jersey

Protesters hold signs during their vigil. Rachel Ogden of Goosewatch, which advocates on behalf of geese, said she attended to make people aware of the killings. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
Protesters hold signs during their vigil. Rachel Ogden of Goosewatch, which advocates on behalf of geese, said she attended to make people aware of the killings. APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer
Posted: August 06, 2012

During a vigil to memorialize scores of Canada geese that animal-rights activists say were probably killed in Voorhees, David Sauder and Linda Richardson agreed and disagreed.

Sauder, president of Animal Rights Activists of New Jersey Inc., worried that the geese had been slaughtered in what he deemed a cruel and unnecessary act.

Richardson, while lamenting a possible violent end, was relieved the geese were gone, an absence that would drastically reduce residents' fight against the filth of goose poop.

The two chatted politely Saturday in a discussion that embodied the goose issue. Animal-rights activists advocate for life while others worry about decimated crops, dirty waterways, and the soiled property that geese leave in their wake.

Sauder organized the protest after what he said was the likely killing of about 125 geese that had taken up residence around a lake behind the M. Allan Vogelson Regional Branch of the Camden County Library.

The geese were around the lake in early July and then suddenly they were gone, said Sauder, who lives in an apartment complex near the lake.

So he did some amateur sleuthing. He searched for a permit with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Northeast Regional Branch, which would have allowed the geese to be rounded up and euthanized.

He found what he thought was the culprit, the Echelon Common Facilities Association, an organization that maintains common areas around the library and the nearby Echelon Mall.

The association had been granted a permit in February that allows it to euthanize up to 200 birds during the year, said Terri Edwards, a spokeswoman for the government agency.

The grantee is obligated to first try nonlethal methods, Edwards said.

Alan Tate, a manager for MAMCO property management, a caretaker of common properties in that area, and whose phone number is listed as a contact for Echelon Commons, did not return a call seeking comment.

But Steve Toth, chief wildlife biologist for Goose Control Technology, said his firm had rounded up the geese.

Toth wouldn't say what he had done to the geese but said "all euthanization takes place within guidelines" recommended by the American Veterinary Medical Association.

Then Richardson, who sits on the board of her condo association, Britton Place North, added what appeared to be confirmation.

She said she was told by representatives of MAMCO that the management firm was going to round up the geese, euthanize them, and donate the meat to programs that feed the homeless.

That followed residents' longtime battles with never-ending poop being stepped on and tracked into their homes. Children have to play around it, Richardson said. Her condo association had earlier put up a fence to keep the geese at bay.

"As another living, breathing individual, I don't want to see anybody euthanized," Richardson said, "I just know the geese problem was getting worse."

Sauder argues that humane methods that could help control geese are often overlooked and ignored. Tall grass, he said, repels geese because they fear not being able to see possible predators. Stones around the lake could also keep them away because geese don't like to step on them, Sauder said.

Rachel Ogden of Goosewatch, which advocates on behalf of the geese, said she was attending the vigil to help make people aware of the goose killings.

"I take exception to the term of euthanasia," Ogden said. "It's slaughter."

The lake behind the library is between a senior citizen complex and housing developments.

Scores of ducks were on the banks of the lake Saturday afternoon, significantly outnumbering about 20 geese eating near a footbridge across the lake.

Sauder said he hoped the vigil would lead to a meeting with Echelon Commons.

"We want to get them to commit to utilizing humane methods," Sauder said.

Contact Kristin E. Holmes at 610-313-8211 or kholmes@phillynews.com.

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