Paws on patrol: Dogs are helping keep local goose population on the move

Ohio Geese Control has several border collies are on duty in the Toledo area.
Published: Aug. 5, 2022 at 7:04 PM EDT
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - It’s a problem that quite frankly has a lot of people honked off.

We’re talking about the growing number of Canada geese that call our region home. There’s a humane way to help handle the problem and it involves four-legged helpers.

You certainly don’t have to go far to find Canada geese. Cynthia Poe, a migratory bird specialist and dog handler for Ohio Geese Control in the Toledo area, said we’ve seen an annual increase in the population.

“Estimates are that the growth of the population in NW Ohio has been 10-15% per year, every year. We are a humane goose population resolution service. Humane is the first word in our company’s mission,” Poe said.

Poe said the company has several border collies on the job in our area.

“The dogs are trained to come back as soon as they are called, so they never actually get to the geese. They just run toward them and come back. That re-introduces the idea in the minds of the geese that there is a predator in the environment, so they can’t hang around and be fat and sassy like they’ve grown used to doing,” Poe said.

We met dogs, Emma and Katt, at Glass City Metropark Friday. It is one of many places the dogs’ patrol.

“We work at places like university campuses, hospital campuses, public parks, private parks, industrial sites with ponds, and retirement communities,” said Poe.

Michael Sullivan is Emma’s handler. He said she’s often one step ahead of him. “Sometimes, the dogs will tell me there’s a bird there when I hadn’t even noticed it. It is amazing to watch them work,” Sullivan said.

Border collies are highly intelligent and bred to herd. Many of the dogs used by Ohio Geese Control are rescues.

“They want to go to work. They have an instinct for rounding up animals. It’s usually cattle and sheep, but we take that instinct and point them toward Canada geese lounging around on the ground. At home, they are pampered house pets, but in the field, they are working dogs on a mission. They truly love to work, Poe said.

There are migratory and resident Canada geese. Poe said both populations are growing, but it’s the resident geese that cause the concern.

“We humans keep creating environments that are perfect for Canada geese. They like open lawns, fertilized grass, short grass so they can see predators, but there are no predators, and they like ponds. People also feed them sometimes, and those things are part of the reason some of the populations have skyrocketed out of control,” Poe said.

The dogs are trained to help strike a balance between people and the birds, and Sullivan loves being part of that mission. “I don’t work. This is one of those positions where you’re doing what you love, so you don’t work.”

The dogs live with their handlers. Once they’re retired, they can be adopted by their handler.

If you enjoy dogs and spending time outside, Ohio Geese Control is hiring. To learn more, click here.

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