Park officials in Denver, Colo., are trying to manage their Canada geese population by putting them on the menu for the city’s neediest families.
Biologists rounded up hundreds of Canada geese early on July 1 — ironically on Canada Day north of the border — as part of a newly-authorized measure to curb the number of geese in the city.
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The birds will be killed and the meat distributed to charitable organizations and wildlife rehabilitation centres, according to the Denver Parks and Recreation (DPR) website.
“They are getting processed, and they’re getting donated to needy families,” Scott Gilmore, the city’s deputy parks director, told Fox News Denver affiliate KDVR.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture says Canada geese are safe for human consumption. They’re normally protected under the U.S. Migratory Birds Act, but state and federal governments granted Denver permission to conduct the cull.
“We’re not trying to get rid of all the geese in the city,” Gilmore said in a separate interview with the Denver Post. “We’re just trying to manage a more healthy population in the parks system.”
City officials estimate some 5,000 Canada geese live in Denver. Approximately 300 were collected in the July 1 roundup.
The DPR has been struggling to contain the pesky and aggressive birds for more than 15 years, according to the organization’s website. The geese have been taking over golf courses, pooping all over park grounds, devouring local plants and threatening citizens whenever they get close.
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July 1 falls in the middle of prime molting season for Canada geese, when they shed their old feathers and grow new ones for the summer. The geese are unable to fly during the 30- to 45-day process.
The DPR has already tried several other non-lethal tactics for curbing the Canada goose population. They’ve dipped eggs in oil to prevent them from hatching, planted tall vegetation to limit space for the birds to graze and deployed noisemaker devices to scare the birds away.
The DPR tweeted that it’s trying to find alternative uses for the meat because it doesn’t want to send it all to a landfill.
Gilmore and the DPR have faced intense backlash for the cull on social media, and more than 600 people have signed a petition calling for Gilmore to be fired.
New York, Pennsylvania, Oregon and Maryland have previously allowed food banks to accept Canada goose meat from culling programs in summers’ past. Some states occasionally open up their goose-hunting rules to help control local populations.
A report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says killing Canada geese for meat is an acceptable last resort for population control, but only during the molting season in overpopulated urban areas.
The report says culling geese is an immediate and effective solution, although it is “sometimes more socially controversial than other techniques.”