by Sam Levin
The geese that roam the campus of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville can be aggressive and threatening -- and sometimes even attack humans. At least this is the case according to some campus officials, who announced yesterday morning in an e-mail to students a plan to gather up geese on campus and transport them to a "processing center" where they would be "processed into food products." This news immediately sparked backlash from animal-rights advocates who mobilized a petition online to "stop SIUE from trapping and killing the geese residing on campus."
"There are a lot of reasons that I love this school," Lindan Noel, a grad student who started the change.org petition, tells Daily RFT. "But if they went through with this, I would be very upset."
She adds, "I don't know of anyone who has been injured by a goose."
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Yesterday afternoon when Daily RFT spoke with Doug McIlhagga, director of marketing and external affairs at SIUE, he explained to us that this was necessary for safety on campus.
"Sometimes they swoop down on people entering their offices or residences," he says. "Moms get upset when they frighten small children. You have a variety of situations."
But a short while later, officials on campus sent out another e-mail to students: The plan to remove the geese -- which the university had called the "Canada Goose Charity Harvest" -- was cancelled.
That short e-mail from Kenn Neher, vice chancellor for university administration, says in full:
After considering feedback from the University community, I have decided to cancel the planned Canada Goose Charity Harvest in cooperation with the US Department of Agriculture. The University will continue to pursue other USDA approved methods to control and discourage the population.
On a second phone call after that e-mail reached students, McIlhagga tells us, "We decided that we will take a step back and go back to the method that we've been trying to use."
These "non-lethal" methods involve managing and removing eggs and nests, he says.
So the geese will definitely not be killed?
"At this stage in the game, the charity harvest has been cancelled," he says.
Prior to this change in plans, Noel, a 23-year-old public administration masters student, who also attended SIUE as an undergraduate, was organizing support online to pressure the university to rethink its plans.
"I don't really think that there's that big of a problem," she says. "They are making it sound like geese are attacking people all the time on a regular basis.... I've been at the campus for five years. I've never once been attacked by a goose."
The possibility of them being shipped off to their death was upsetting to her, she says. "That's really unnecessary and...inhumane."
The original e-mail that sparked the whole controversy said that "the SIUE administration has determined that to ensure the safety and well-being of its faculty, staff, students and guests that an effort needs to be made to manage the damage that Canada geese cause on campus."
That e-mail said the "non-lethal methods" have not been successful and that the population has continued to grow, which is why the university would consider a "charity harvest" event in the next month or so.
The geese would be gathered up while they are "molting," which means they would not be able to fly.
Eventually, they would be processed into food products and given to charities and "needy individuals."
McIlhagga (in our chat prior to the reversed decision) tells us that between March 1 and mid-May in Cougar Village, one part of campus, there were fifteen "documented situations of aggressive behavior toward humans."
He says, "That becomes an issue for us...as we try to present the safest campus possible."
He says it also costs just over $7,000 annually to address clean-up and various population-control efforts.
Currently, he says, there are about 40 hanging around on campus that are visible, but adds that this spring, there were at least 125 nests on campus.
"We know we are always going to have geese," he says. "The goal is to make it a more manageable situation."
Here's a copy of the full original e-mail he sent out:
Dear SIUE Students, The SIUE administration has determined that to ensure the safety and well-being of its faculty, staff, students and guests that an effort needs to be made to manage the damage that Canada geese cause on campus.
There are many documented instances regarding geese attacking individuals, building nests close to building entrances that have hampered staff and students from entering their daily place of business and other aggressive behavior.
Over the past 10 years, the University has attempted a variety of non-lethal methods in attempts to attain a balanced population. Despite these efforts to manage the population, it has continued to grow and become overly abundant in recent years. As a result, the Chancellor's Council has approved an agreement with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to perform a "Charity Harvest." This event will occur approximately between mid-June and mid-July.
- The geese are gathered up while they are molting flight feathers and cannot fly
- After capture, they are humanely transported to a processing center
- They are processed into food products and provided to charitable organizations for distribution to needy individuals
This technique has been used effectively in many states throughout the Midwest.
The strategy will bring the goose population on campus to an appropriate and safe level, while creating an optimal balance between the positive values and conflicts with resident Canada geese.