Send in the hounds!

Send in the hounds!

Stalk & Awe uses dogs to manage geese populations

By Kevin J. Gray

 Photo: Stalk & Awe border collie Alex harassing a goose to the point of flight

Have Canada geese invaded your yard? Tired of clearing goose poop from around the pond? One Miami Valley resident has a novel solution – send in the hounds. Greg Wagner, owner of Stalk & Awe Geese Management Services, LLC, has come up with a humane way of removing the pervasive avian pests – he lets his pups round them up and shoo them away.

For eight years, Wagner worked as a commercial maintenance technician for regional real estate group Miller-Valentine. Well-known around the Miami Valley, the construction group owns and rents a variety of commercial and residential properties. Come spring, many of these properties were plagued with the same problem – ever-pervasive, and often pesky, Canada geese. The birds invaded ponds around the properties, nesting, molting and generally making a mess of the place. As part of his job, Wagner worked to keep the ponds geese-free. He tried all of the normal passive deterrents such as coyote decoys and pond grids, but nothing worked. One day, one of Wagner’s co-workers suggested he bring one of his dogs in to help. His pooch is a border collie mix and was an instant success. The dog was able to shepherd the geese off the property without hurting them.

For the next five years years, geese management became a regular part of Wagner’s job description. Each February, he and his dog would make the rounds of the Miller-Valentine properties, scaring off the geese before they had a chance to nest. Wagner enjoyed the work so much that he started looking into the possibility of leaving Miller-Valentine and doing this full time, but stopped short of taking the leap, preferring the security of full-time employment

Sometimes, however, fate gives us the nudge we need and this was Wagner’s turn. Just after he finished getting his ducks in a row, so to speak, he was laid off from Miller-Valentine. The preparation served Wagner well. Stalk & Awe was born.

How does Stalk & Awe work? Wagner explained that first, he starts with border collies, since they make the best dogs for the task. Collies have an instinct that allows them to effectively manage geese, which comes from years of breeding collies for herding sheep. The dogs possess behaviors that intimidate the geese, behaviors that Wagner refers to as “The Stalk” and “The Eye.” The Stalk is a predatory movement the dogs make when approach prey, where the collies hunker down. The Eye is an intense stare, where the collies maintain intense eye contact with their prey. Both scare the geese, giving them fair warning that they are not welcome.

Wagner works with most clients starting in February. Contrary to popular belief, Canada geese live in the Miami Valley year round. As the spring thaws come, the geese get randy. Mating season has begun. This, Wagner explained, is the best time to work with the geese. Geese mate for life and tend to nest in familiar places. But, they will not nest where they feel threatened.

Enter the dogs. In February, March and April, Wagner makes the rounds to client ponds, hazing the geese. Stalk & Awe has six dogs who operate in pairs at a time. One dog works the water shooing the geese onto dry land, while another works the shorelines. After a while, the geese realize they have no place to go and take flight. After an hour or so over the course of a few weeks, the geese get the message: get a room somewhere else.

Why all the work to keep geese away from water? It’s mostly an economic issue. Real estate management firms and private clients invest heavily in making office parks comfortable work spaces.  Wagner explained that, “[Geese] cause thousands of dollars of damage to turf. They will destroy your nicely manicured lawn quickly. Obviously, they leave their droppings all over the place. They will pollute your pond and create algae blooms.” And algae blooms kill fish.

Stalk & Awe offers a humane and green solution to this problem. The dogs manage the geese by scaring them off, but are trained not to harm them. In fact, Wagner is careful to follow the processes outlined by both the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and the Humane Society.

The toughest challenge so far? Wagner recounted a time when clients called him late into the season. There were 30 geese on the property and 10 of them had started to molt. Molting geese present two problems: first, they leave their feathers everywhere. Second, as they shed their old feathers they are temporarily unable to fly. For a property owner, that often means being stuck with the geese until molting is over. Within a day or two, Wagner was able to bring in the dogs to haze the 20 geese who had not yet started molting. Then, surprisingly, the dogs were so effective that they were able to shoo off the molting geese, too, who waddled off the property on their own.

 

Want to know more about the services Stalk & Awe offer? Find them on the web at stalkandawe.com or call 937.471.8668. Wagner’s Collies also participate in fun events around town. See video or schedule an event at teamzoom.biz.

 

Reach DCP freelance writer Kevin J. Gray at KevinGray@DaytonCityPaper.com.



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