While the student enrollment continues to grow at Charleston Southern University, where I work as director of the Graduate School, the administration is happy to report the geese population is not. Thanks to an innovative approach by a local bird nuisance expert, the geese are no longer nesting, eating and, well, leaving their “calling cards” all around the 300-acre campus.
Fred McBain’s business card says he works for the FBI. In his case, though, that acronym stands for Fred’s Bird Illumination. McBain has spent quite a few hours, mostly at night, trying to figure out how to humanely discourage a resident Canada goose from becoming one of those visitors who decides they just don’t want to leave the Lowcountry.
Various businesses, primarily universities, hospitals, large companies and golf courses, pay McBain to encourage these geese to find another location to call home.
Three years ago, approximately 100 geese regularly appeared on the grounds at CSU. Last year, about 60 were residents and this year the number is less than 20.
So what is McBain doing to discourage the flock from congregating near the reflection pond? He simply shows them the light.
Geese are fond of ponds, lakes, open spaces and short, green grass. What they don’t seem to like is a green laser light. The light doesn’t harm the goose, but it sure seems to make them nervous. When McBain shines it around their webbed feet, the goose seems to believe it’s a predator. If this is done on a regular basis, it disturbs their sleep and encourages them to find a different habitat.
Success doesn’t happen overnight, though most of the encouragement takes place after dark.
If McBain can irritate or disturb the flock enough with that darting, green light ... they’ll eventually spread their wings and fly to another location.
Sometimes, he’ll identify the dominant pair and concentrate his light on them. If the dominant male and female decide to leave, the others will follow.
This isn’t just some fly-by-night operation, though.
It requires a certain amount of patience and persistence. If Fred doesn’t maintain a constant presence and takes a couple weeks off, they’ll return.
Just why are the geese so undesirable? Let’s put it this way: One goose generates 1 to 2 pounds of waste per day. If 50 or so of these birds are on your property every day, do the math and while you’re figuring — watch your step.
Other means of discouraging these creatures from claiming squatters’ rights are not always effective. Area golf courses often place fake images of dogs near their lakes. One course superintendent opted to sprinkle coyote urine crystals near his greens to keep the geese at a distance. They appear to be too smart for that.
In other parts of the country, less humane attempts are tried that include actually shooting the birds or relocating them. Often, in a short time, that is just a temporary cure because others will soon arrive to eat, graze, nest and you-know-what.
The Internet shows a variety of startup businesses here and elsewhere with clever names including BirdBGone, GeesePeace and Goosinator. They’re all designed to provide solutions.
The FBI is the only company, locally, that uses the laser light as a deterrent. At the moment, it seems to be working. McBain thinks some nights, when he sits in his truck and shines the laser at their feet, the geese are laughing at him.
It’s when they move on, though, that he gets the last laugh and creates a satisfied customer.
Here’s the question, though: When the flock flees, do they really leave town or just find another place close by that doesn’t have a guy sitting in a truck at night aiming a green laser at them?
Reach Warren Peper at email@example.com