Carol Rasmussen in her yard in the Forest Lakes neighborhood where 90 geese were rounded up during the 2010 round-up and slaughter.
Carol Rasmussen photographed this family of Canada geese at Forest Lakes in 2010, shortly before the round-up and slaughter.
FILE PHOTO COURTESY CAROL RASMUSSEN
Two years ago, Forest Lakes North resident Carol Rasmussen was devastated when officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture rounded up and slaughtered 90 Canada geese from the five lakes in her neighborhood, citing airline safety and the neighborhood's proximity to the Charlottesville Albemarle Regional Airport.
This year, Rasmussen says, her thrill at the arrival of a single pair of geese nesting in the lake behind her house turned to horror when she spotted a department agent patrolling the lake who told her he intended to "addle" the eggs, a process by which the shells are covered with oil, killing the developing embryos.
"One pair of geese with their eggs cannot cause a hazard," says Rasmussen, who had already named the adult geese "Gracie" and "George" in anticipation of the arrival of their goslings. She describes herself as "furious" at the egg addling, an annual effort by the Forest Lakes Neighborhood Association and something the board president insists is necessary, even when the goose population is low.
"It's one of our proactive efforts in an attempt to prolong the need for future round-ups," says Board president David Shifflett, who says that despite the annual addling, the goose population will probably grow as some nests are missed.
Gracie and George were not the only nesting pair, Shifflett says, noting that this year, 19 eggs were addled. In past years, he says, as many as 70 eggs were addled, and still, the goose population grew to the 90 or so present at the 2010 killings.
As reported in a Hook cover story that year, the large size and migratory nature of Canada geese makes them a potential aviation menace, particularly at take-off. The memorable "Miracle on the Hudson" flight, which catapulted airline pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to hero status in 2009, put an even sharper focus on Canada geese, which collided with both of that plane's engines immediately prior to the river landing.
However, any bad reputation is undeserved, according to nonprofit organization Geese Peace, which suggests less lethal control measures. (While the group's approved protocols do include egg addling, it advocates the measure only after the population has risen beyond a certain level.)
Rasmussen says she doesn't know if the wildlife official she encountered traipsing around the lake ever found the nest, and she says Gracie continues to sit on the eggs– a sign, she hopes, that the developing birds remain viable.
Neighborhood president Shifflett says he shares Rasmussen's love for wildlife and understands her desire to watch a goose family grow together.
"She was excited about seeing the eggs hatch and the family raise the goslings, and I respect that," says Shifflett. "But we have to do what's right for the community overall."
Rasmussen agrees that some population management is necessary.
"Controlling the geese is okay with me," she says. "It's just that, they don't all have to go, do they?"
She suggests that with the small number of geese currently present on the lakes, predators might naturally keep the numbers in check, and she notes that the wildlife official told her that turtles enjoy making meals of goslings.
"I don't even know if nature will let them survive," says Rasmussen. "There's a lot of turtles on the bank."
Update:As this issue was going to press, Carol Rasmussen contacted the Hook to say George and Gracie had left the lake, and that their nest and eggs are gone.–ed.