Monday, June 25, 2007

Duck Duck, Goose Goose - Gone!

Residents and golfers in suburban Gulf Breeze, across the Sound from Pensacola Beach, are buzzing about the sudden disappearance of scores of geese and ducks who long have inhabited the fairways, creeks , and ponds of Tiger Point Golf and Country Club. Indeed, some of los desaparecidos are featured on the front page of the "scenic" golf course's own web site, where they appear to be guarding against any golfer's vicious slice into a pond -- Poof! Last week, all the ducks and geese just disappeared. By some counts, as many as 100 adult loons, ducks, and their offspring are simply gone. A common rumor among residents is that they were all "caught and gassed."

A dispatcher at the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission denied that today. He told us the wildlife was "relocated" -- although he couldn't say where or when and didn't know who would know other than the trapper who caught them. No one else at the agency knows, either.

As it turns out, the Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission doesn't keep records on specific wildlife removal activities and doesn't require reports. All the agency does is issue annual permits to qualifying trappers. Then it turns a blind eye while the trappers have at it.

"It's private enterprise," another Fish & Wildlife commission worker said. "You'd have to ask the trapper and we don't know who that might have been."

Not exactly a license to kill, but pretty close.

One local trapper we spoke with, Mark Hughes, has been called out to Tiger Point on other occasions involving wounded birds. Hughes had nothing to do with last week's episode and was surprised to learn of it.

"Those birds weren't harming anyone," he said. "I can't see why anybody would have them removed."

Asked if some licensed trapper could lawfully collect geese and ducks at the golf course's request, Hughes told us, "Not really. Federal rules about migratory birds make it almost impossible to touch 'em. You can't kill 'em and there ain't hardly any place to take 'em, neither."

There are a number of federal and state laws and regulations protecting migratory bird populations. The Extension Service at the University of Florida conveniently summarizes those laws in plain-speak:
Resolutions to conflict between humans and wild animals shall first be attempted using non-lethal means, except under extreme and immediate circumstances where human safety or the safety of a companion animal is imminently threatened.

Wildlife control, including non-lethal actions, shall not be conducted simply because a homeowner considers the mere presence of a wild animal to be a "pest" or "nuisance."

The approach to wildlife conflict resolution shall follow a series of steps.

  • To promote an understanding of how connected humans are to wildlife and to the surrounding environment

  • To foster tolerance, respect, and understanding of all living things

  • To provide opportunities for Harmony residents to view, hear, and interact with local flora and fauna in an ecologically and environmentally friendly way

  • To create and provide educational activities which will foster a community-wide land ethic and promote future land stewardship.
Many area residents at Tiger Point took an interest in watching the birds raise their young. A few golfers possibly blamed them for an errant tee shot or a putt gone awry -- not a "nuisance" but in the view of some a capital offense.

But almost all folk at Tiger Point are taken aback at the weirdness of the apparent mass exodus -- or extinction. They say it's eerie to see the course suddenly denuded of all waterfowl. Florida Fish & Wildlife workers confirm they've been fielding a lot of complaint calls about the disappearance.

Our calls to golf course managers seeking more information about the trapper's identity and the fate of the flock have not yet been returned.


Anonymous said...

This is wrong wrong wrong. If anyone has any leads as to how this happened - who did it and how - please leave post. its too late for the killed birds but it may prevent future killings if can accumulate enough information and take to appropriate authorities. this action cannot be legal.

Anonymous said...

You all worry about these birds now but did any of you care when you or someone sliced on into the head of a big canadian goose???????? Didnt care then but know you all do hell i wish i knew the guy that got them goose taste great.

Anonymous said...

This problem can be avoided at golf courses by installing dog decoys. has an efficient, low priced, and humane product to get rid of Canadian geese. said...

Here, I don't actually consider it is likely to have effect.