For once, Buffalo’s weather was cooperating. A warm breeze produced faint ripples on the surface of Lake LaSalle. The stars shone brightly, no clouds to conceal them. The first fallen leaves of the year littered the ground.
It was a perfect night. And with nothing better to do during the pandemic-ridden fall semester, I was determined to enjoy it. I settled a blanket on the grass, laid on my back and watched the stars.
But all was not as it seemed.
As I packed up my things, I noticed a spot the size of my palm on the bottom of my blanket.
It was goose s--t. Green, slimy, festering goose s--t.
Every UB student has a goose story. Maybe you almost hit a goose driving to class because it wouldn’t get out of the road. Maybe a particularly aggressive goose built its nest outside of your dorm building a few years back. Maybe geese woke you up at unseemly hours with avian UFC. Maybe a goose dive bombed you while you were running on the bike path, seemingly just for fun. Or, maybe a gaggle of geese lining both sides of the sidewalk hissed at you on your way to Knox.
Simply put, the geese that inhabit UB’s campuses are a--holes. They poop everywhere — and they’ll make eye contact with you while they do it. They don’t care about anything. They hate everyone and everything they lay their beady little black eyes on.
UB students are well acquainted with the problems posed by North Campus’ most prominent waterfowl. The university “routinely receives complaints about” geese, according to its website. UB’s unofficial Reddit page sports a “geese appreciation” tag, where students keep tabs on the geese’s plans “to attack” the university. Memes about geese are strewn across UB-related Instagram pages. (The university tried their own hand at this with a “geese appreciation” post on Instagram. The 125 comments were largely negative, and rightfully so.) The Center for the Arts’ most iconic mural features a goose destroying a city with lasers shooting out of its eyes.
To say that students are traumatized would be to put too fine a point on it, but there’s a reason for the obsession: students don’t feel like campus is theirs with so many geese. We can’t use any of the green spaces because they s--t everywhere. We can’t sleep in because they’re too noisy in the morning. We can’t use any of the bike paths in the spring because they get too aggressive and attack us.
Most of UB’s other fauna — groundhogs, ducks, deer, even skunks — are perfectly pleasant, or at least non-confrontational. Geese just can’t get a hold of themselves.
And geese aren’t just destroying our will; they’re destroying our campus, too. Each goose produces roughly two pounds of green, slimy poop everyday, according to lohud.com. About 200,000 Canada Geese live in New York State. That means they produce about 200 tons of goose poop everyday, which is approximately the weight of the Statue of Liberty. North Campus doesn’t receive all of that s--t, but it gets more than its fair share.
Furthermore, resident geese, such as those living in Erie County year-round, damage the environment through the “overgrazing of grass, ornamental plants and agricultural crops; accumulation of droppings and feathers in public use areas; ...[and] the fouling of reservoirs and swimming areas,” according to a USDA report.
Geese can further cause “nutrient loading [in] ponds” — which can lead to elevated levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in waterways — and “safety hazards near roads,” according to the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation. Maybe Lake LaSalle wouldn’t be (as) gross if fewer geese called it home.
There’s clearly a problem here. But the federal government has made “regulating” geese even harder by taking drastic but necessary options completely off the table. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, the “killing, capturing, selling, trading and transport of protected migratory bird species,” unfortunately including Canada geese, is illegal.
Consequently, the geese of North Campus seem to have learned that they are federally protected, further emboldening them to harass helpless freshmen.
But despite the futility of its efforts, the university has worked within the confines of the Migratory Bird Treaty to regulate the scourge of geese. The university has erected fencing and hired border collies to scare, but not maim, the foulest of waterfowl. While these efforts have helped, they are by no means a perfect solution, as geese remain “a public nuisance on campus,” to quote the university.
There are exceptions to the act, though. Limited numbers of geese can still be hunted on designated grounds during hunting season, although North Campus, thankfully, isn’t a permitted hunting site. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services issues permits for actions otherwise prohibited under the act, but these permits are rarely issued.
Thankfully, there are other solutions.
According to the NYS DEC, “any landowner, homeowners’ association or local government (and their employees or agents) [can] take nests or eggs of Canada geese without a Federal permit” as long as they register with the USFWS. NYS DEC recommends “destroy[ing] goose nests or treat[ing] the eggs with corn oil (or puncturing) to prevent hatching” and has no further permit requirements.
UB should take this course of action (to the extent that it removes excess geese and won’t harm the environment). It will prevent environmental degradation, keep students safer, make campus cleaner and won’t involve actively harming geese.
Everyone wins — except for the geese. But that’s a world I’m more than willing to live in.
Grant Ashley is a senior news/features editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Grant Ashley is a senior news/features editor for The Spectrum. He is a political science major and a (mediocre) Spanish minor. He enjoys taking long bike rides and recreating Bob Ross paintings in crayon.