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Annual Goose Roundup Winds Down in the Salt Lake Valley

Early June is goose-banding time in the Salt Lake Valley, and around 100 volunteers join the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources on Friday to help.

Kayakers herd dozens of Canada geese across Liberty Park pond just after daybreak. These birds can’t fly away. The young haven’t quite grown flight feathers yet. And the adults are waiting to sprout new ones after molting. Catching and banding the birds is fast, around a half hour. That’s because of veteran volunteers like 4th grader Rowen Eggett.

“It’s kind of like holding a feathery football,” she says.

Rowen was born around the same time as the geese roundup, a decade ago. And by this roundup, her eighth, she knows how to handle geese so they don’t wriggle or bite.

“If you hold it certain ways,” she says, “like with its head under it’s wing or you hold it like it’s a baby, um, it will not be as squirmy.”

Someone inside a kind of goose corral hands Rowen a bird by its ankles. She walks it over to a man banding and collaring the birds and calling out pertinent information about each one.

Around four-dozen geese are loaded into crates. They’ll be trucked to Brown’s Park Wildlife Management Area near the Utah-Colorado line where they can be wild again. Rich Hansen, migratory bird coordinator for the Division of Wildlife Resources and founder of the program, says geese can be a nuisance here in urban Utah.

“They poop all over the place, all over the sidewalks, all over the grass,” he says. “Some of that poop contains diseases that are a health hazard.”

The banding also helps biologists and sportsmen track the birds and learn about the species. But Hansen says it’s not only good for the geese.

“I think it’s valuable this day an age where kids are stuck in the house, playing video games, watching TV and not getting outdoors as much as we would like.”

These birds will join more than 11,000 others that have been relocated through the program since 2006.

Judy Fahys has reported in Utah for two decades, covering politics, government and business before taking on environmental issues. She loves covering Utah, where petroleum-pipeline spills, the nation’s radioactive legacy and other types of pollution provide endless fodder for stories. Previously, she worked for the Salt Lake Tribune in Utah, and reported on the nation’s capital for States News Service and the Scripps League newspaper chain. She is a longtime member of the Society of Environmental Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. She also spent an academic year as a research fellow in the Knight Science Journalism program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In her spare time, she enjoys being out in the environment, especially hiking, gardening and watercolor painting.
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