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Saltville plans goose roundup

DAN KEGLEY -- Staff

Smyth County News

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Saltville approved a plan recently to round up some of its Canada geese and addle their eggs, both less controversial techniques than the special hunt a couple of years ago.

In the past, Saltville has used dogs to frighten away the Canada geese that bespoil the town�s golf course, well fields park and other public areas with their droppings. Flock-scattering dogs provide only temporary relief. The town also sponsored a special hunt to thin the goose population, a strategy whose effects can be rather more permanent on individual birds and which brought with it unflattering national attention and protests from animal rights activists.

This week the town�s council members approved another technique used before, the goose roundup.

Todd Puckett, a wildlife biologist with United States Department of Agriculture, told the council members Tuesday that during June or July, the geese become flightless for two to three weeks as they molt, or replace their old flight feathers with new ones. Grounded and water-bound under this temporary flight restriction, the geese can be corralled much like cattle or sheep.

If the geese are on the water, a USDA crew can drive them onto land where they are encircled and herded toward a portable pen.

"They try to do it early, before it gets too hot," Puckett said. Loaded on a truck in crates like those used to transport chickens and turkeys, the geese go to a "processor," Puckett said, then the meat is distributed to a food bank.

Puckett said adding egg addling to the round-up will be an effective goose population management tool. Addling involves techniques like shaking and oiling eggs to humanely prevent the development of embryos.

dkegley@wythenews.com

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