GOVERNORS ISLAND — Governors Island has a new solution for keeping goose poop from piling up on its grassy fields this season.
His name is Max — and he’s adorable.
Five-year-old Border Collie Max is the Island’s first “working dog” — a pooch that uses his training in sheep herding to stop Canadian geese from hanging out in massive flocks, chomping on the Island’s grass and leaving their waste behind.
Max, a rescue, was adopted a few months ago by the Island’s director of park and public space, Jim Reed, when the Trust for Governors Island decided it wanted to find a dog to help with the geese problem.
Now Reed has a new, “very hard working” colleague and a friendly, furry pal.
“We literally spend 22 hours a day together,” Reed said. “Max really thrives around people — I love him, and we all love him here.”
Using Border Collies to keep the geese away — without harming the flocks — has become more of a regular practice in parks and other green spaces in recent years, Reed said.
Both Central Park, where Reed used to work, and Liberty Island employ specially trained Border Collies to help get rid of geese.
When Border Collies herd sheep, they quickly circle around the animals, stop and lay on the ground, and repeat — a process that’s “sort of like a wolf prowling,” Reed said.
While those movements keep sheep together, it sends the birds fleeing. Max can clear out hundreds of birds within just a few seconds of sprinting into a circle — he's also trained never to bite the birds.
Reed says Max’s skills are definitely in demand on the Island. Last year, 30 new acres of green space opened and that has meant more room for hundreds of geese — some migratory, some residents in New York Harbor — to roam and eat.
“Our turfs are getting decimated [by the geese],” Reed said. “They come in and eat all the greenery, they’re like locusts.”
And there’s the poop. Each goose can chomp upwards of three pounds of grass a day — and leave behind a pound of waste.
The island, which was dealing with “a bit of a mountain of poo” thanks to the birds, is trying to stymie visitor complaints about encountering bird waste when they picnic, walk or play on the fields this season.
But along with his geese-clearing chops, what makes Max especially great for Governors Island is his love of human attention, Reed said. That need for affection made Max unsuitable for working on a sheep farm, where he was initially raised — since he’d be on his own with the herds.
On Governors Island, though, Max's intense work ethic and love of visitors is perfect, Reed said.
Reed and Max drive around the Island several times a day, on the “patrol” for packs of geese. But when they aren’t working, Max — whose fluffy fur is black and white, with some scattered brown patches — will be greeting visitors to the Island, which opens for its season on May 23.
Other dogs — aside from service dogs — are prohibited from the Island, so that will keep Max the center of attention, something he loves, Reed said
“He’s a real flirt,” Reed said. “He’ll be greeting visitors to the Island — he'll walk up until you pet him, and then move on to the next person."