Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A Long-Time Problem: An Easy Solution

Dealing with invasive species is rarely a one-shot expenditure of effort unless the species has been detected early and individuals mount a fairly quick response to the introduction. That's why we constantly harp on the importance of early detection and rapid response.

When we don't detect and respond quickly, the species often spreads rapidly, escalating costs for control and monitoring. One other unfortunate outcome of not dealing with invasive species quickly is that the public can become more than accepting of the invaders' presence over time, welcoming the beauty of yellow Scotch broom along Oregon's highways, or delighting in the taste of Himalayan blackberry.

Such is the case with the "prison geese" in Salem, Oregon and many other cities and towns throughout the United States.

The majority of people in society like to do good things. They believe that feeding animals is humane and helpful. Over 10 years ago, people began dropping domestic birds off at the parking area on State Street in Salem, Oregon, adjacent to the prison and across the street from several state agency buildings.

It seemed innocent enough at first. The first few birds that appeared were fed by the public - how harmful can that be? Then people began bringing more birds. And wild geese and ducks joined the domestic invasive geese, and as time went on, we have created one heck of a mess.

The birds are frequently fed bread by the public - not exactly a healthy diet for a winged creature. The birds stop traffic several times a day as they waddle (they cannot fly) to and fro from the parking area where they are fed to the state agency lawns where they graze and feed. Several times a month, people hit the birds with their vehicles, and the carcasses remain on the roadway for days at a time. The birds leave piles of droppings everywhere. And worst of all, the public has become very defensive of its "bird feeding park."

What is it going to take to end this situation? First, outreach to the public, so they understand how harmful it is to feed these birds - harmful to the domestic invasive geese and the wild birds that have taken up shop with them. Second, changes in City of Salem regulations that make it illegal to abandon domestic birds and feed wildlife. Third, an acceptable method to remove the invasive geese from the area. And finally, but certainly not last, the willingness on the part of everyone - the City of Salem, prison officials, state agency staffs, and the public to have the conversation about how this got started, why it's wrong, what we should do, and how we can prevent it in the future.

It's time to do the right thing instead of turn the other cheek - for the benefit of the birds and the quality of life we seek in all of our communities.

1 comment:

  1. This is a classic case of cute animals in the wrong place, and of the struggle between science and "feel good" attitudes - kind of an urban version of the wild mustangs of federal lands.

    Best of luck with both issues, but as H.L. Menken said, "Nobody ever lost a nickel betting against the intelligence of the American public", so I am no holding my breath.

    V. Holm