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Stuart Johnson, Deseret News
Geese swim past a "stay out of pond" sign at Tri-City Golf Course in American Fork. Removal of the geese is part of three-year plan.

There will be fewer "birds" in the weeks to come on Salt Lake and Davis county golf courses, which will make golfers happy.

Two weeks ago, officers from the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and volunteers rounded up 1,450 wild geese from golf courses and private ponds. The adult geese were transported to Delta and released, and the juvenile geese were released with adult geese along the northern reaches of the Great Salt Lake.

"The program is working," said Richard Hansen, waterfowl area manager for the DWR.

"In order to get all the geese we needed, we went to all the places we did last year and then had to go to five new places. Even then, we captured 250 fewer this year."

About 100 geese were removed from the Glendale course and 300 from Stonebrook.

This is the third year of a three-year program to remove urban geese from within the cities and relocate them to wild marshes.

Tom Aldrich, migratory bird coordinator for the DWR, said that along with adapting, the urban geese are also learning. Those captured before have learned to avoid being recaptured by diving under and around herding boats.

The first year, 1,000 geese were captured. Last year, 1,708 were taken from golf courses and inner-city ponds.

Wildlife officers found that of those captured last year, 30 percent of the adult geese returned to city life.

"But only five total juveniles returned out of 1,200 we captured and moved," he said.

The so-called urban geese have become a nuisance in recent years, particularly on local golf courses. They roost on the fairways and leave their droppings on the grass and greens.

Ten years ago, geese stayed away from city life. Then a few discovered and found they liked city living. They in turn raised young that were imprinted with city living, and they in turn raised more young. As a result, several thousand geese have learned to habituate within the city, finding these areas offer ideal living conditions — open green space with ponds, food and no predators.

Wildlife officers were able to capture the wild geese because the animals lose old feathers, and, until new ones grow, they can't fly. Typically, they are able to start flying in the first week of July.

As noted, this is the third year of a three-year program. Aldrich said that preliminary findings suggest the capture-and-moving program has worked and will be continued.

Utah's urban geese are not as much of a problem as they are back East and in other parts of the country. In Seattle, for example, wildlife officers have had to destroy nests and kill geese.

Utah's goose population has remained stable in recent years. Estimates are the Rocky Mountain population is roughly 150,000 birds. It is estimated there are about 3,000 geese holding in urban areas in the summer. This increases to around 6,000 geese in the fall and winter when geese begin to migrate.

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