The township committee voted in favor of capturing and euthanizing geese unless a qualifying group who can relocate the birds offers its services by April 1.
“It’s a balancing act,” said Committeeman David Most, who put the population control method of capturing back on the table after the committee
“If you go down to that beach, it’s just horrific as far as the droppings are concerned,” he said. “I understand the sensitivity of the issue. I’m an animal lover but when you sit in this position you have to make a decision for the majority. The majority of the public wants a clean beach on the third lake.”
The focus for geese population control will be on Deerhead Lake, which was closed for 13 days last summer for high bacteria levels. Currently the beach is inundated with bird feces, Most said.
“It’s a beautiful lake, and I just think it’s time to take it back,” he said. “If we do this one shot capture program and follow up with preventative maintenance, it’ll be successful.”
But the beauty of Deerhead Lake was second to the lives of hundreds of geese as advocates from across the state came out in full force.
Bonnie Ensor, a resident of Lacey since 2009, stood with an animal rights group in Mount Laurel in 2010 after 133 geese were captured and euthanized.
“We have 50 to 100 sunbathers out there during prime season,” she said. “I appreciate seeing the geese and mallard ducks on the lake. I would like to advocate protecting our wildlife and using other means.”
The advocates encouraged the committee to use other methods of population control such as border collies, a nature sweep machine and the great eagle.
“There’s a more effective use of ($6K),” she said. “We have a drug problem. We have a crime problem. The ($6K) thrown around to kill these little animals, it’s not right.”
David Sauder, president of Animal Rights Activists of New Jersey and a resident of Voorhees, presented a manual to the committee detailing the various methods of population control.
To capture the geese, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends rounding them up in a netlike enclosure and putting them in the back of a truck with a gas chamber, he said. It can take up to 40 minutes for one goose to die.
“It’s a horrible way to die,” he said. “Spend the money to come up with an integrated approach... It’s up to us to come up with plans rather than killing.”
In Mount Laurel, 133 geese were euthanized and within a month 80 more populated the area, Tina Wilson said. Wilson, a resident of Mount Laurel, has spent many vacations in Lacey and pushed for the committee to find a more effective and humane method.
“They come right back,” she said. “It’s like taking the taxpayers' money and just blowing it out the window. At a time when people are losing their jobs, to take money to kill geese that are only going to return again is very sad.”
Mayor Mark Dykoff and Committeeman Gary Quinn argued that the advocates are not from Lacey and do not understand the issue.
“You don’t really know us or our problems,” Dykoff said, pointing out that Lacey is 85 square miles with 66 percent of the township preserved. “We don’t take any of this lightly… We go out of our way to develop a great habitat for wildlife and preservation in this township and you’re only seeing a small part of it.”
Residents from Lacey have been supportive, Quinn said. “This is Lacey Township. These are our residents and our taxpayers that have come here for specific reasons and the water is a major part of our reasoning for living in this area.”
Longtime resident and appreciated the township’s efforts in taking this step, he said.
“I think this is the first time in many years that attention has been brought to the problem,” he said. “It’s the beginning of saving the lake.”
Zehl has tried his own methods of population control since he lives right off the lake. From artificial dogs to real dogs, the geese adapt and return, he said, which was the committee’s reasoning for selecting egg and nest searching as well as capture.
“It’s a shame that geese decided to take up residence here,” Zehl said. “But I don’t blame them. I love this town.”
Pete Wagula of Lacey spent his childhood growing up by the lake fishing, row boating, kayaking and collecting turtles, he said.
“It was a great experience,” he said. “It’s been years since we’ve been able to use the lakes like we used to. It started out with a few dozen geese, now it’s a few hundred geese. When does it stop?”
The committee voted in favor to capture the geese by a vote of 3 to 2 with Dykoff and Quinn opposing. Even though egg and nest searching could take years before it’s effective, Quinn wants to determine if the method is successful before resorting to capture.
The vote was contingent on whether a qualified group would come forward with the capability of relocating the geese. The committee has to make a motion to move forward with the capture method by April 1.
The out of town advocates plan to return to protest, they said after the meeting.
“You cannot say you love animals and vote on killing them,” Winnie Parmar of Cherry Hill said. “Just because we’re inconvenienced by them, that does not give us the right to take a life… We should find a way to coexist with these animals and not kill them just so we can enjoy some beach time.”