At Barrington High School, outfielders on the baseball team need not worry only about opposing hitters and the possibility of a glaring mid-afternoon sun.
They’ve got to watch their step, also.
Across the high school athletic fields, springtime ballplayers are confronted with numerous piles of Canada goose excrement.
School officials, like George Finn, the director of athletics and student activities, have tried to keep the geese off the fields, but have been overwhelmed by the fowls’ persistency.
“They’re everywhere,” said Mr. Finn. “They’re at St. Andrew’s, our (high school) fields, the middle school. Everywhere.”
The geese take up residency on town fields and, depending on the amount of snow cover, will eat their fill on grass. According to the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District, one Canada goose can eat up to four pounds of grass and produce up to two pounds of fecal waste each day.
In the past, school officials in Barrington resorted to placing wood cut-outs shaped like coyotes all over the fields to scare away the geese. The resident and migratory fowl soon figured out the ploy and ignored the cut-outs.
Or “the cut-outs would get vandalized or sometimes someone would steal them,” said Mr. Finn.
“The geese keep coming back.”
In a recent interview, Mr. Finn said he would be willing to try other tacts in order to keep the geese away, and it appears a possible solution is just two towns over. In Bristol, parks and recreation director Walter Burke uses a spray to repel the sometimes aggressive birds.
“It’s an oil-based, concentrated grape juice,” Mr. Burke said. “It works.”
Mr. Burke said Bristol fields, including the soccer and baseball pitches at the Bristol Town Beach and Sports Complex, played host to countless Canada geese before he started applying the spray.
“(One spray) lasts a couple of months, depending on the amount of rain,” he said. “They (the geese) don’t like the taste, and it gives them an upset stomach.”
The spray, which Mr. Burke said is non-toxic, has worked so well he’s now considering using it at the Bristol Warren school department athletic fields. He said those fields have been hit hard by the well-fed geese.
Mr. Burke said his battle against Canada geese goes beyond their affect on local fields. He said the geese also add to the pollution in Narragansett Bay.
He said once he applied the grape juice repellent to the fields at the town beach there was an “80 percent improvement in beach water quality.”
Mr. Burke said he’s more than happy to share his approach with other towns that are struggling to keep geese off their fields. He said he recently received a call from Bryant University.
“They ended up buying a border collie,” Mr. Burke said, referring to a dog breed that is often used to chase geese off fields.
As for Mr. Finn, he said he’d definitely take a look at the grape juice spray. In the meantime, he’s hoping the increased student-athlete activity on the fields will result in decreased Canada goose activity.
“Once the kids are out there, the geese will find another spot,” he said.
Oiling goose eggs
In Bristol, officials turn to egg-oiling to limit the Canada goose population. From late-March to mid-May, people from the Eastern Rhode Island Conservation District will locate goose nests, and after gently coercing the geese from their nest, they will test the eggs for their development stage. The people place eggs in a bucket of water — if it floats, it’s too far along in development to be oiled. Eggs that sink are coated in corn oil, which stops eggs from maturing or hatching. They then place the eggs back in the nests.