Whitewater business, Geese Police of Wisconsin, shoos geese away

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Andrea Anderson
May 31, 2015

WHITEWATER—Susan Kinney plopped her kayak onto the shore of Lions Pond in Janesville while a boarder collie named Gael kept her head to the ground tracking for geese on a rainy day in Janesville.

In the background, geese honked and scurried into the water away from Gael and Kinney.

Little did the geese know, they weren't out of reach.

Gael sat in the kayak between Kinney's legs as she paddled toward two adult geese and five goslings.

Gael and Kinney's daily mission is to get geese out so people can come in.

The two are part of Geese Police of Wisconsin based in Whitewater.

Kinney and her husband, Michael, started the franchise in 2004 after Susan heard about Geese Police on the radio while living in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.

The Geese Police headquarters is in Howell, New Jersey.

David Marcks founded the company in 1996 after spending years as a groundskeeper trying to deter geese from a golf course in Connecticut, according to its website.

The company has franchises in 13 states and Washington, D.C. The Geese Police have been used to clear geese from the National Mall and its pond and from local golf courses.

The Kinney family owns the only franchise in Wisconsin and covers the southern half of the state.

The business has three handlers--Susan; her husband, Michael; and their son Trevlyn--and three dogs--Gael, Rocky and Meg.

They are hired by people who don't want resident geese, nests, diseases and feces.

A goose produces about 1.5 pounds of waste a day, Susan said.

“That's a lot of poop,” she said.

To drive away geese, a handler and dog visit a property multiple times a day at different times each day.

The dog runs the geese from land to the water. Then the handler and dog jump into a kayak and herd the geese away from the property. Sometimes the dog stays on shore to keep the geese in the water while the handler, in a kayak, scares them farther away.

Once the geese see the area as unsafe and the dog as a predator, they move somewhere else.

Border collies are used because they are smart herding dogs and stalk geese rather than catch and retrieve them. The dogs give a look called the “wolf's eye” that unsettles the geese and scares them into flight, Kinney said.

“We're not hurting the geese at all,” Kinney said. “The dogs don't touch them, and we don't touch them. Ever.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources approve the practice, Susan said.

The Kinneys have contracts for apartment complexes, cities, parks and golf courses.

The franchise had a contract with the city of Janesville from 2004 to 2008, Cullen Slapak, Janesville parks director, said. The geese police worked at sites such as Monterey, Traxler and Riverside parks.The city ended its contract to save money and because of questions about the service's effectiveness, Slapak said.

On a recent rainy day in Janesville, Susan and Gael were intimidating the geese, not shooing them away because of the lack of contract and the fact the geese couldn't fly away.

The work season is April until geese molt in June. It picks up at the tail end of summer and continues until water freezes.

When Susan started, she knew nothing about herding or geese.

She and Michael spent time in New Jersey and worked daily with handlers there to learn how to handle the dogs and geese. All dogs go through months of training.

The bond between Gael and Susan needs to be tight, Susan said.

Gael repeatedly looks back at Susan for commands as she heads toward geese.

The dogs are the reason Susan wanted to start a franchise. She called an Illinois franchise and was told they weren't hiring. She thought starting a franchise would be fun.

Now the business consumes her life, and she wouldn't change it for anything, she said. If someone told her 20 years ago this would be her full-time job, she would have laughed, she said.

Michael, a retired police officer, enjoys being outside with the dog, she said.

Beloit has had fewer goose complaints since signing a contract with the Kinneys in 2012 for Riverside Park, River Bend Area and local golf course, said Brian Ramsey, director of parks and leisure services.

Geese still return, but not in the numbers they could, Ramsey and Susan said.

“There is nothing worse than when you're enjoying the park and walking along the walkway and it's just filled with droppings or using an area of the park and it's filled with poop as well,” Ramsey said. “It's just a matter of helping to try and keep our parks clean and usable.”

Beloit pays the company $2,000 to $3,000 a year, Ramsey said. Contracts depend on location and need, Susan said.

The city has a permit from the DNR allowing the Geese Police to break goose eggs and remove nests in March and April, Ramsey said.

Susan said she hopes she dies at a work site.

“You can't sit and wish, you gotta do something,” Susan said. “I don't want to go living my life saying 'I wish I did that. That would have been fun.'

"Do it. Live.”

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