Citing significant health and environmental concerns about its growing geese population, the Foster City Council is moving forward with its depredation plan that includes lethal options to kill geese, despite significant protester pushback.

Foster City’s population mitigation plan includes an option to cull Canada geese in addition to its nonlethal options, with the council directing staff at its July 18 meeting to continue the application process for federal depredation permits to kill up to 100 geese. The permit allows people to kill certain birds and animals for population reduction, but the exact method to be used in Foster City has yet to be determined.

“The time for talk and discussions and making plans is over,” Mayor Richa Awasthi said. “We need to take action with a sense of urgency. I am aligned with my colleagues here to obtain the depredation permit.”

The potential culling has led to fierce activism and protests of any killings, including a May protest and comments of significant opposition at the July council meeting. Speakers asked the council not to kill the geese, asking for all sentient beings to be respected. Others stressed the moral obligation to treat animals with respect or questioned if the council had exhausted all nonlethal options. City staff said the capture or killing cannot be the primary method to be used and would only be allowed with ongoing nonlethal measures.

The city has acquired one of two federal permits needed. The city in January received a permit from the Wildlife Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The second step is getting a permit from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services.

Foster City staff said it had tried various methods to control the population with little effect. Methods include dog hazing, strobe lights, keeping goose eggs from hatching and fence barriers. In June of 2022, the goose population in Foster City was 379, with the population in 2020 at 181. The city stressed it would continue nonlethal options, like hazing and egg addling. It is also researching various new methods, including a speaker playing six goose distress calls to scare them away, hawks, dogs, a patrol robot, and low-frequency lasers. City staff recommended adding dyes to the water, hazing and working with startup company Bay Area Bots on a pilot project using robotics and artificial intelligence to scare away geese.

“If we continue the status quo, we should expect to have 792 geese by 2024 if we just keep doing what we are doing,” Vice Mayor Jon Froomin said.

The council cited public health hazards of degraded water quality and excrement in parks, beaches and recreation areas as reasons to consider lethal options. City water quality updates for Gull and Marlin parks from August found the primary source of bacteria was wildlife like geese and seagulls. The city said since 2017, Foster City lagoon and beach areas have had high bacteria levels due to goose droppings. Mandatory beach closures have occurred after analysis of water samples for beaches at Erckenbrack Park, Marlin Park and Gull Park. Residents also spoke in favor of the plan, noting the growing problem has decreased quality of life and hurt lagoon water quality.

Councilmember Sam Hindi said Foster City has tried to control the geese population for decades without luck. He stressed Foster City is not trying to kill the geese and is instead trying to address the extreme public health hazard and the inability of the community to use its parks. While he found potentially gassing the geese offensive, he said culling was necessary.

“I can’t, as an elected official, let the geese take over the city and deprive residents of the city to use their parks and kids to use their sports fields,” Hindi said.

Councilmember Sanjay Gehani agreed the city could not continue its current efforts and needed to do more. He wanted lethal options to go along with nonlethal options like robots, lasers and a water-based spray that treats surfaces that have an irritating effect on birds.

“We are dealing with a crisis here,” Gehani said. “This is not a minor inconvenience. The lagoon water near some of our beaches is unsafe for us to use. That is unacceptable.”

Councilmember Patrick Sullivan suggested working with San Mateo and Redwood City on regional strategies but remained concerned about a lack of a concrete plan.

“The failure here is we don’t have a plan,” Sullivan said, noting the geese continue to come. “We have a lot of suggested ideas.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture was previously interested in doing the depredation work but, due to increased workload and public scrutiny, no longer wants to. Instead, it referred Foster City to Wildlife Innovations Inc. for a contract. The biological consulting firm charges significantly higher rates, with no other depredation companies identified. Staff will now bring forward an agreement with Wildlife Innovations Inc. for culling if no other vendor is found, a staff report said. Relocation is no longer an option because the state has indicated it is not effective and would not issue a permit. 

The motion passed 4-0-1, with Sullivan abstaining. The city said in a press release that people can email geese@fostercity.org or visit https://www.fostercity.org/community/page/canada-goose-population-management for more information.

Note to readers: This story has been changed. It had previously incorrectly stated relocation was an option for the city through an agreement with Wildlife Innovations Inc. It is not possible because the state has said it would be ineffective and would not issue a permit. 

curtis@smdailyjournal.com

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

(650) 344-5200 ext. 102

Reporter

Curtis Driscoll covers transportation and the cities of San Mateo, Foster City, Belmont and Half Moon Bay. See my other articles: https://bit.ly/3IruW6p

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(2) comments

Terence Y

Is a conclusion to this saga near? Let’s hope the second permit comes through, sooner rather than later. Having depredation on the table provides a valuable bargaining chip. FC can propose an alternative to all activists and protesters – they can clean up the droppings and alleviate Foster City public health hazards from now until the second permit is received. If they can’t, FC will use the permit and we can have a community goose dinner. Should we submit recipes to the email or via the website?

iautom8u

I blame Justin Trudeau....we must make Canada pay for this.

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