Foster City is looking at potential actions to control a rising geese population throughout the city, recognizing that geese numbers are out of control, potentially affecting community well-being and lagoon water quality.
“Recently, we have gotten to points where it’s really difficult to walk on the sidewalk of one of our best places in Foster City, like Leo Ryan Park or any other parks,” Councilmember Sam Hindi said. “It’s really a major issue, as difficult as it is, [that] we need to figure out.”
A city staff report at the City Council's Aug. 16 meeting said sample testing suggests a potential correlation between elevated fecal concentration from geese and lagoon water quality. The city is now looking at possible solutions for both. In September, a complete study and recommendations to control bacteria in the lagoon system will come to the council.
Concerns about potentially polluted beaches near Erckenbrack Park, Gull Park and Marlin Park prompted Foster City to hire Environmental and Public Health Engineering to investigate the source of the high bacteria rates in the lagoon. Sample results taken found no traces of human DNA. However, it did show goose and seagull DNA markers in the samples, leading to the belief that bird feces could be an issue. Large populations of wild Canada geese spend time in Foster City’s waters and create issues year-round, especially during molting season, June through August. Higher concentrations of fecal materials at parks and beaches are often seen in molting season. Concern about excrement geese leave in fields, parks and walkways have been noted, creating a potential health hazard and affecting outdoor activities.
In June, the goose population in Foster City was 323 birds, almost double the June 2020 count of 181 birds. However, the goose population is expected to decrease as the molting season comes to a close.
Mayor Sanjay Gehani declared the geese population a current public health issue, given the lack of safe open space for children and the potential viruses the geese could carry. He noted geese could have a negative impact on parks, walkways, beaches and schools. However, he said he would wait till the September report before making final recommendations.
“If we don’t do anything, our situation with geese is just going to get worse. They will continue to grow in population,” Gehani said.
Hindi agreed the city had a problem and needed to take action. He suggested a community volunteer program to help clean up geese remains given the time and labor required.
“We don’t have enough staff to do this. This will be a full-time job for so many people to do it. The good news is we have a lot of community volunteers, a lot of active volunteers in our community that are willing and happy to assist to keep Foster City clean and keep Foster City healthy,” Hindi said.
Councilmember Patrick Sullivan noted there were few alternatives and answers to entirely dealing with rising geese populations, with mitigation the most likely option. He said the city would have to focus on mitigating the population and suggested working with other city partners who deal with geese populations.
“I think we should look at it as a regional issue more than just an issue just for Foster City,” Sullivan said.
Potential steps to manage the geese population include removing dropping, fogging the geese with a nonharmful chemical to irritate them and working with cities and school districts on solutions. Foster City can also continue its egg-addling efforts, which prevents the eggs from hatching.
The city has tried to address lagoon water quality by using solar bees, algae harvesters, chemicals like Cutrine and organic dyes. Solar bees were considered unsightly and were removed due to community disapproval, while harvesters were discontinued due to expense.
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