Frustrated farmers target Canada geese

USDA may bring in a team to shoot them; ‘animal communication’ pitched as alternative.

Canada geese munch on the grass at Ocean Park in Oak Bluffs. Farmers are looking for ways to eliminate them. — Gabrielle Mannino

Updated April 17, 1:20 pm

Vineyard farmers met with wildlife specialists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Thursday afternoon to seek help in reducing Canada geese populations.

The farmers say the normally migratory geese have settled on the Vineyard year-round by the thousands. In addition to munching away on pastureland and crops, the geese leave behind carpets of droppings. The farmers want the geese gone, and say using state hunting permits alone, they cannot dent the populations. The meeting was put together in about 24 hours by Mitch Posin of the Allen Farm, and hosted by Agricultural Society president Brian Athearn at the Ag Hall.

“You don’t have predators on the Island, that’s the big thing,” USDA wildlife technician Justin Sypek told the farmers. Sypek said the USDA can bring to bear a number of solutions, from egg addling or oiling to shotguns. He suggested a four-person team would be necessary over the course of roughly a week.

If the solution involved shotguns, Matt Dix of North Tabor Farm asked how to work in Tisbury, which has a bylaw prohibiting firearms discharges.

“If there’s a longstanding prohibition of firearms, we might have a problem,” Sypek said.

USDA wildlife technician Ryan Bevilacqua said a type of net gun could be employed in that case.

A critical step in the process, Sypek said, is ensuring as many farm owners as possible return a completed Form 12, which permits the USDA access to their land. A problem, he said, is when attempting to control geese on one farm, they can flee to another.

Also present was Edgartown Golf Club general manager Mark Hess, who said he believed many of the Island’s golf courses would like USDA help with Canada geese.

“We donate all the geese we get,” Sypek said. “We don’t let anything go to waste.”

Sypek said he would have a price ready for the farmers by Monday. An off-the-cuff guess of $10,000 to $20,000 was given by Bevilacqua, if housing could be provided for technicians. When the USDA might start if the price was settled wasn’t clear. Ag Society vice president Julie Scott was selected to be the farmers’ liaison to the USDA.

In the wake of the meeting, Islander Jackie Kane reached out to Athearn to pitch what he described as to The Times as “telepathy” to control the geese. Kane told The Times the proper term is animal communication, a practice similar to horse whispering. She cited the work of Danielle Sender with vultures in Virginia and Anna Breytenbach with elephants in Africa. If need be, Kane said, she would be willing to pony up her own money to bring an animal communicator to the Vineyard to commune with the geese and see if a solution can be reached. “I really want a peaceful solution,” she said.

“As much as I would like to believe that telepathic communication with geese would be an acceptable solution,” Athearn said, “I don’t believe in the reality of that as a functional means of solving this problem.”

He said farmers and caretakers have tried lasers, reflective lights, and other gentler means of shooing the birds, and they’ve proven ineffective.

At the close of the farmers’ meeting with the USDA specialists, Posin summed up his position.

“The goal that I’m after is not only having you come,” he said, “but educating the public that if we want to have farms here, we have to get rid of these geese.”


Updated to add comments by Jackie Kane.


  1. Canada is not sending us their best geese– they are eating our grass, pooping on our lawns, and “fowling” our water. A few of them taste good, I suppose… We need to build a really tall,— a TREMENDOUSLY tall beautiful wall between the U.S and Canada. One we can see through…. That’s really important..

    • Ummm…never. Unless you have figured out a way to get the geese to come to your front yard instead of a farmer’s field, it is none of the community’s business how a farmer protects his fields from them.

      • So, farmers can just kill any animal..sounds good to me..they want to kill the geese who are eating their crops which they feed to the sheep that they kill to make money so they can keep killing…I bet they have a bumpersticker that says “Be kinder than necessary’…LOL

  2. Thinking Circuit Ave would be full today, I parked on Seaview Ave and walked through Ocean Park to do my shopping at Reliable. The park was disgusting. Beautiful Ocean Park is filled with goose droppings to the point that there is literally no place to step without stepping in it. How is this okay? Weren’t they going to get dogs or something to chase them off?

    • Sara there is a by law in ob that dogs have to be leashed.
      And just to be clear– the humans here have taken most of the land they would normally graze on and built houses. The geese have every right to be here.. as they say–If you can’t handle the poop, stay out of the park..

      • Obviously the town would have been able to waive the leash law for a dog “employed” by the town to chase the geese away. I remember talk about the plan as well.

        As for handling the poop, it’s more than an inconvenience for the ponds that are riddled with extra nitrogen. As a 2015 Times article explained:

        “Canada geese are a major factor in the increasing nitrogen levels and the declining health of the estuarine ponds on Martha’s Vineyard, according to several studies.

        A 2007 water quality study of Sengekontacket Pond, a prized shellfishing area that has been shut down with increasing regularity, showed that 60 percent of the bacteria in the pond came from waterfowl fecal matter, according to Edgartown shellfish constable Paul Bagnall.”

  3. dondondon, you are unbelievable. Where do geese get their rights? Moral equivalency between humans and geese? give me a break. Next you will be telling me that illegal insects from Canada are ok also. We should be good stewards of animals when we can but the DO NOT HAVE RIGHTS just because you say so. Sheeeesh!

    • andrew— geese get their rights from god herself.
      First– let’s define ownership–
      “Everything under heaven belongs to me.” (Job 41:11)
      That includes geese– even ms 13 geese–
      Second — let’s read what god thinks about the geese “God saw everything that he had made, and indeed, it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31)
      She also commanded “”You shall not pollute the land in which you live…. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in which I also dwell ” (Numbers 35:33-34)
      Proverbs 12:10 “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast, but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
      Laws such as “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain” (Duet 25:4) and as Jesus asked “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out” (Matt 12:11)? God’s compassion and love for His creatures is evident throughout the Bible like in Exodus 23:4 where even “If you meet your enemy’s ox or his donkey going astray, you shall bring it back to him” and “If you see your fellow Israelite’s ox or sheep straying, do not ignore it but be sure to take it back to its owner” (Duet 22:1)
      Sounds like god is giving rules to humans and rights to animals–
      How about Job 12:7-10 ?
      And where does god say we should be good stewards “WHEN WE CAN”? sounds like an Orwellian quote to me.
      Have you ever read the book about the motherland, where Boxer reads the rules ?
      Rule # 7 –” All animals are equal —but some are more equal than others. ”
      Animals don’t have rights– try beating one of those geese with a golf club and see how fast you wind up in jail. Sheeeesh!

      • Wait…what, god is a her? You mean they lied to me the whole time I was growing up and was forced to go to church on Sundays. That wasn’t very nice.

    • Since when do humans have the right to say who lives and who dies? Get off your high horse…You don’t get to kill anyone that bothers you. Humans build more houses and more stores and take up every piece of land..and then say that the animals who SHARE the planet with us are a nuisance???

  4. Interesting that you use the bible as reference when indeed you think it a fairy tale. Yes the Bible says all of that but that has to do with stewardship not rights. The Bible tells us that we are superior to the animals. Adam demonstrated his authority over them by naming them (Genesis 2:19-20), and animals were given to us for food (Genesis 9:3). In fact, Jesus said we are more valuable than the animals in Matthew 6:26.1. The Bible tells us that we are stewards of the land and the animals on it (Gen. 1:26; Psalm 8:5-8). We are to take care of them and not abuse them. This is not because they have rights, but because we have been entrusted by God with the responsibility to care for what he has given us and to use wisdom in expanding our dominion in the world. Animals are part of that charge. Rights belong to moral agents, and animals lack moral agency. Driven by instinct, they lack the higher-order thinking skills that enable people to choose between courses of action. We have duties toward them. If your dog gets hit by a car, you must see that it gets proper medical attention. That much is perfectly clear. Nevertheless, animals don’t have rights in the same way humans do. Animals and humans are different, and humans are the ones made in God’s image, not animals, so humans were given dominion over the animals. We cannot say that animals have the same rights as humans, as they are subservient to us. Still, we are to treat the animals properly and responsibly.

    • So when humans are driving a species to extinction, humans are obligated to step back and right the wrong. You just shredded the morality you claim of the bible.

  5. The geese are also causing major problems for the ecosystem of our ponds as the Times explained in 2015.

    Just as with the deer, a lack of natural predators boosts the population beyond sustainable numbers. Culling is a perfect mechanism for restoring order.

  6. In regards to the article what I have actually said and have been saying is this:
    “The USDA solutions offered for the massive killing of 2,000 geese on the Island is quite disturbing and we are asking the community (& farmers, Ag Society & golf courses) to explore alternative options….Here, for example, are just a few alternatives for further study that would be peaceful and less expensive. We are not the first community to be confronted with such decisions. There are humane options:The Gander Disbander.,, and

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