WHEELING, W.Va. — While a flock of geese or unconcerned groundhog eating a dinner roll on Wheeling’s waterfront might make for a great photo – this is one reoccurring scene that city officials would like to see disappear.
Even though the city of Wheeling clearly has “No Feeding Policy” signs positioned in public areas such as Heritage Port and both city parks, it is obvious the policy is ignored at times – as clumps of bread or other food items are often left in plain sight. The signs posted at Heritage Port read: “Feeding of Birds and Fowl Prohibited: Fines up to $500.”
“The biggest problem right now is it brings in not 10 or 15, but hundreds of Canada geese, and they spread feces all over the entire area. It is very unsanitary,” said City of Wheeling Operations Supervisor Tim Birch , while referring to the reoccurring problem at Wheeling’s Heritage Port. Birch said the waterfront seems to be the one area where there is a constant problem. He said when people feed the birds or other wildlife in public places it creates an unsafe atmosphere.
“When they bring food in it brings in rats, it brings in groundhogs and all kind of wildlife and everything else into the area and it’s just not a safe situation,” Birch added.
He said the multitudes of geese hanging around Heritage Port is not a new problem – it is one the city has battled for years.
“We have been trying to use all kinds of methods to try and chase them (geese) away, from fake coyotes to coyote urine,” said Birch.
He said there was a time he even mounted speakers up in the trees that simulated coyote howls and gunshot sounds, but Birch said it didn’t take long for the geese to figure out there was not a real threat.
“They make such a mess down there and we have to go down there almost on a daily basis and clean it up after they have been down there,” said Birch. He said with all the festivals and events held at the waterfront – city officials do their best to keep the area clean. “It’s very time consuming and very labor intensive. It’s just not good for anybody,” he added. Birch said he encourages the public to walk their dogs at the waterfront in an effort to scare the geese away.
In addition, Birch said there continue to be instances where people feed birds and pigeons in city alleys. He said people don’t realize when they are feeding cute “fuzzy birds,” they are also attracting other unwanted critters like rats and groundhogs.
The city has “No Feeding Policy- for ducks and geese” pamphlets available at Oglebay and Wheeling parks. Information included in the pamphlet informs the public that fall is the time of year that Canada geese and mallard ducks migrate south for the winter. But in recent years, an abundance of food from the public has motivated the waterfowl to stay here year-round, disrupting the natural cycles that nature intended. This has caused the population of geese to double in just five years. Bread, cereal and crackers are deficient in protein, calcium and other nutrients. A steady diet of these foods is very harmful to the birds and causes damage to their bones.
In addition, waterfowl droppings are not only unsanitary to walkways, grassy areas and picnic areas, the droppings also can affect fish and other wildlife. Large groups of birds are more vulnerable to disease and parasite outbreaks. Wild ducks and geese are protected under the federal Migratory Bird Act. It is illegal to harm the birds, their nests or their offspring and feeding them is harmful. For more information about the problems that arise from feeding birds and other wildlife visit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service at www.fws.gov/birds.
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