Haliburtonians have seen a dramatic decrease in the number of geese plaguing Head Lark Park thanks to ongoing efforts by the municipality to dissuade the creatures.

The geese once flocked around Head Lake in hundreds, littering the ground with droppings and creating a large mess for municipal staff to deal with. But years of dedicated work naturalizing the shoreline, strategically growing plants and putting up goose tape have seen the nesting population at Head Lake go to zero.

Recreation program co-ordinator Andrea Mueller said it has made a huge difference at the park.

“It’s made the park more enjoyable for people,” Mueller said. “There was a lot of goose feces on the ground … then people don’t really want to play around the park or have young children around the park where there’s that much of it.”

The efforts to deal with the geese began in 2010, when the Haliburton Highlands Stewardship Council and Haliburton Highlands Outdoors Association received a grant to install native garden beds at the lake to dissuade geese.

Leora Berman helped spearhead the effort, with volunteers pulling together to plant the beds. Berman said geese were an extreme nuisance back then.

“I counted 240 geese that occupied Head Lake year after year,” Berman said. “Feces apocalypse. It was just gross.”

She added the feces harm lake health, impacting the level of oxygen in and harming fish habitat. But the geese are adaptable and reducing their numbers was a yearslong process, Berman said. Geese will find whatever open space they can on shorelines, requiring solutions like goose tape.

“To totally alleviate the problem, it’s like a chess game,” Berman said. “It has to be consistent.”

But the efforts were consistent. After Berman stepped away from goose control in 2017, the municipality took it on and has continued to manage the shorelines. In that year, Berman said she saw around 10-12 nesting geese around the lake, which have since
disappeared.

“Dysart should be very proud that we are one of the few municipalities that have a good example to show landowners,” Berman said.

The efforts do not make the township or the surrounding areas goose-free. Mueller said nests have continued in places like the Haliburton Highlands Secondary School grounds. But she added those high school geese no longer cross the road to Sam Slick Park, thanks to efforts by students and the County of Haliburton Property Owners Association to naturalize the shoreline there. She added the municipality has taken similar steps elsewhere to dissuade geese, such as at Eagle Lake and Haliburton Lake.

Although foraging geese can still appear for shorter periods later in the summer, for now, people can enjoy a Head Lake mostly free of goose poop.

“Most municipalities in Southern Ontario have major goose areas,” Berman said. “The fact Dysart, at least municipal lands, are now a good example to follow is great news.”

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