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GLIN==> Chicago Tribune | Metro -- PALATINE TRIES GOOSE BUMPS

Title: Chicago Tribune | Metro -- PALATINE TRIES GOOSE BUMPS
Chicago Tribune
October 2, 2000
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Tribune Staff Writer
September 27, 2000

Canada geese congregating at two of their favorite dining spots in Palatine over the next few weeks should find polka-dot grass on the menu--enough to turn the stomach of any winged pest.

The Palatine Park District's Oak Park, on Anderson Drive at Clark Street, and the Palatine Hills Golf Course on Northwest Highway were treated Tuesday with a chemical that alters the way the geese see their food.

FlightControl is a non-lethal repellent that absorbs ultraviolet rays to make the grass appear spotted, at least to a goose, said product project leader Jim Headley.

If the bird is not turned off by the appearance, eating the grass will cause a gut reaction that sends a signal to go feed elsewhere.

"What you want to do is make the bird feel uncomfortable," said Headley, who is coordinating free demonstrations in Chicago and the suburbs.

There are other goose repellents that turn geese away with unappetizing smells that are equally repulsive to humans. FlightControl's makers are hoping the odorless chemical will appeal to communities where Canada geese have become a nuisance at corporate campuses, parks, golf courses and just about anywhere there's a pond and rich green turf.

By camouflaging their food, "you're breaking that chain," Headley said. "They're going to be unable to eat here for two weeks. It could take them as much as seven weeks to come back."

Delaware-based Environmental Biocontrol International, which makes the repellent, has been shopping it around in communities with geese problems. Communities such as Palatine and Streamwood, which have been struggling with goose droppings on playing fields, decided to make use of the free demonstration of FlightControl.

"We still have a goose problem," said Sue Gould, Park District board president, adding that Palatine has tried numerous measures, including firing cannons to scare away geese.

At about $200 a gallon, the chemical can treat up to 2 acres when mixed with water.

One application can last three weeks during mowing season and up to three months during winter months, Headley said.

"It's not cheap. But if it keeps them off the field, it's worth the expense," said Ed Tynczuk, assistant parks superintendent.

At Oak Park, soccer games have been canceled because of massive quantities of droppings. The waste is slippery and can contribute to injury, not to mention being unsanitary.

"It's a big problem we can't find an answer for," Tynczuk said. "We just want to keep them off the field so the kids can play."

Tynczuk said the Park District will monitor the field and golf course over the next few weeks to see if the repellent is effective and make a recommendation to the board.

The Streamwood Park District, which has tried to confuse geese with streamers and pinwheels, recently accepted a free demonstration of the goose repellent in Kollar Park.

Park District Director Rick Pyle said the chemical appeared to work but said it is far from being a solution to the goose problem.

"All it's doing is pushing the geese problem off my property onto somebody else's," he said. "It's something you can only use in small areas. We're hoping the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service comes up with a better answer."

There is no guarantee the geese won't move to yet another location, so long as there is food there, said Rick Gruber, who owns a company that has been applying the chemical for the past year.

But Gruber said he prefers this method to shaking eggs, which keeps them from hatching.

"This way, people get to see the geese, just not out where we walk," Gruber said.

The Palatine Park District has also turned to a more natural way of dealing with geese by not mowing around ponds, which discourages geese who are fearful of predators hiding in the tall grass, Gould said.

Palatine also has a goose patrol, in which residents can register their dogs to run unleashed and chase geese out of no-tolerance areas twice a day, seven days a week.

"I really don't care about the geese; it's the poop," said Corey Zak, horticulture foreman for the Palatine Park District.

In the fall and spring when geese congregate in larger numbers, Oak Park "smells like a chicken farm," he said.

Zak said he registered his dog, a borzoi named Hattie Mae, to participate in Palatine's goose patrol. Hattie Mae is a large Russian wolfhound that no goose is about to test.

But geese are inherently fearful of dogs, so even a terrier can seem like a terror to them.

Some places such as Palwaukee Municipal Airport in Wheeling specifically use border collies to drive away the geese. Last year, the airport also sprayed FlightControl near runways to reduce the risk of planes hitting geese.

There were no collisions recorded in the last year, said Dennis Rouleau, assistant airport manager.

"For the most part, there are no geese," Rouleau said.

He said the airport would consider using the chemical this year, if it can afford it.

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