The gaggle of geese that crossed Prince Philip Drive in Olney yesterday stopped traffic for only a few minutes, but the incident highlighted the rift between animal-rights advocates and residents who say the birds must go.
The roughly 80 geese that live around a nearby pond also are pockmarking neighborhood sidewalks with droppings, leading the Environ community governing board to move to kill the birds in the next two weeks.
The decision has drawn intense criticism from some residents in the condominium and town house community who say the plans were kept secret and that better alternatives exist.
“They’re playing hard nose,” said Mary Moneymaker, 57, a leader in the effort to save the geese.
She said animal-rights organizations have offered to help remove the geese at “next to no cost,” but that the board refuses to consider options.
Shireen Ambush, the Environ Community property manager, said the board decided to kill the geese after it received several complaints.
Miss Ambush said the goose population is at an all-time high, making the pond area unpleasant and unhealthy.
She also said that less-severe measures have been tried.
For example, crews tried but failed in the past two years to disrupt the geese eggs. Miss Ambush also said that the board filed for a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service permit to kill the federally protected bird when other options were too expensive.
“Board [members] made this tough decision not because they are geese haters,” she said. “They did so in the interest of the health and safety of the community.”
Mrs. Moneymaker said a board member inadvertently told her roughly 10 days ago about the decision to kill the geese.
“Had it not been for the slip…, we wouldn’t have known at all,” she said. “Our community was not involved in the decision. No one knew.”
John Hadidian, a biologist with the Humane Society of the United States, said he is angry that residents were not informed earlier.
He also said that geese can be removed without being killed.
The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals also is defending the geese. The group said that a few years ago a homeowners association at Lake Barcroft in Fairfax County used a 15-point plan to remove Canada geese without killing them.
Environ resident Andrew Jontow, 52, said the lack of communication between the board and the residents has been more divisive than the decision to kill the birds.
“That caused much more of a stink,” he said.
Miss Ambush said the board meetings are open to the public and that sending residents transcripts of such meetings was too expensive.
Mr. Jontow said killing the geese will not keep them from returning to the pond, and that the board failed to pursue a more long-term solution.
“There are other options: like growing ivy that the geese don’t like to walk on,” he said.
Mrs. Moneymaker is circulating a petition asking the board to reconsider the decision, and she needs signatures from at least a quarter of the homeowners. However, she fears that the board will not reverse the decision even if she has the requisite number of signatures.
“It’s going to take a little bit of time to remedy this, but they don’t want to wait,” Mrs. Moneymaker said. “They want to act now.”