EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

August 26, 2013

Fake coyotes do the job in Atkinson

Coyote decoys can be part of the solution

By Alex Lippa and Jo-Anne MacKenzie
Staff writers

---- — ATKINSON — There are a few coyotes hanging around the Bryant Woods Condominiums — and residents are happy about it.

In fact, residents moved the coyote decoys in, all in hopes of scaring off the unwelcome Canada geese, which foul the grass all around the neighborhood.

So far, it’s working.

The population swelled to more than 100 earlier this summer, according to Peter Gargas, a resident and chairman of the condominium finance committee.

Now, there are about seven stubborn geese left.

“We had a number of ideas of things we could do to keep them out,” Gargas said.

First, they tried letting the grass close to the pond higher, but that proved no obstacle to the nuisance fowl. Then they looked into installing a fountain in the middle of the pond, but it proved too pricey at $30,000.

They settled on three coyote decoys. Two look fairly realistic from a distance. They’re about 3 feet long and made of polypropylene. The decoys are attached to stakes in the ground. When there is a breeze, it looks like they are moving.

But the third decoy is less realistic.

“It basically looks like a piece of cardboard with a picture of a coyote on it,” Gargas said. “We thought about returning it, but we decided to just put it up anyway.”

Since he put them up two weeks ago, Gargas said, he has noticed fewer geese near the pond.

But some geese aren’t as easily fooled.

“There were about seven geese in the pond who saw us putting them up,” Gargas said. “I still see them around the area, so I think they may have figured it out.”

In order to keep them on the geese on their webbed toes, Gargas said, they move the coyotes to a different location every three or four days.

It’s not just the geese who have been fooled.

“A few people’s dogs got startled,” he said. “One dog even bit part of the tail off of one of them. We were able to reattach the knob of the tail.”

But it seems people haven’t been as easily fooled.

“We let everyone in the condo know that we were putting them up,” he said. “It seems people are getting a kick out of it.”

They weren’t getting a kick out of the geese.

“We’ve had a bad goose problem,” board member Dick Forgione said. “There are goose droppings all over the place and it is making the pond smelly.”

Bryant Woods residents aren’t alone.

The number of nuisance geese complaints is growing, along with the resident Canada goose population, according to Carrie Stengel, acting state director of USDA Wildlife Services.

She said coyote decoys can be effective — to a point.

“Geese are very smart and you need to use an integrated approach,” Stengel said.

That can mean habitat modification, including not cutting the grass, fencing, and auditory and visual harassment, she said.

Harassment can include pyrotechnics, scary-eye balloons, Mylar balloons, air horns.

Most complaints come in June and July, Stengel said, when the geese physically can’t fly. The goslings haven’t developed enough and the adults are molting, she said.

“People should start harassing as soon as they show up,” she said. “In summer, when geese can’t fly, you’re stuck with them.”

Temporary fencing — netting, plastic fencing, snow fence — can work because the geese can’t hop over it.

Starting Sept. 3, Canada geese can be hunted. If local regulations allow, Stengel said, property owners can encourage hunters to set their sights there.

“In the fall, they’ll leave because they’re migrating or because of hunting pressure,” she said. “The resident Canada geese head to the seacoast for the winter.”

She encourages people to call (603) 223-6832 for more information.

“We do site visits to help people assess and mitigate problems,” Stengel said.”We loan out some equipment, including some fencing.”

As for Bryant Woods, residents are taking a wait-and-see approach. They may need to bring in more coyotes, but of the decoy variety.

Forgione said he was hoping to evaluate how it worked at the end of this summer, before deciding what to do for next year.

“We don’t know if three is enough right now,” he said. “We are going to see how well this works.”