HELL'S KITCHEN — When its goose problem got out of hand this past spring, Hudson River Park turned to a group of highly trained experts for help.
For the past few months, vest-wearing border collies have been chasing flocks of Canada geese out of a grassy swath of the park known as Clinton Cove, at West 55th Street past the West Side Highway.
Staff from Geese Chasers — a self-described “professional geese clearing service" — bring the dogs to the cove up to three times a day to keep the pesky birds from leaving droppings on the grass, said Alex Mezzatesta Hudson River Park Trust’s director of operations.
When the geese make a beeline for nearby Hudson River waters, Geese Chasers staff members even paddle the dogs out onto the river in kayaks to keep the birds from coming back.
“When park gardeners would arrive on site in the morning, they would see groups of five to ten geese on the lawns, with lots of evidence of excessive geese droppings,” Mezzatesta explained in an email. “Needless to say, we wanted to improve the experience for park visitors.”
The border collies don’t actually hurt the geese, Mezzatesta noted.
“It is the sight of the dogs alone that deters the geese,” he said. “The dogs do not make any contact with them.”
Border collies remind the geese of Arctic foxes — the Canada goose’s only "true natural predator," Geese Chasers president Bob Young explained.
“All border collies do is try to herd wild animals into a circle,” he said. “They have a look in their eyes, and the geese will see the dogs as a predator, and they’ll take off.”
Since Young started the company in 1999, it has grown into six different franchises, he said.
The company employs around two dozen border collies, all of whom live either with Geese Chasers' longtime employees or with the company’s franchise owners, he said.
The dogs are taught everything from obedience to swimming at a training center in New Jersey starting at an early age, he said.
Hudson River Park first turned to Geese Chasers back in 2012, when flocks of 30 to 40 geese were taking over the cove’s lawns on a daily basis, Mezzatesta said.
The birds' “constant webbed foot traffic compacts the soil, and [they] leave behind droppings that damage the grass,” the park said on its site.
After the border collies put in a few weeks of work back in 2012, parkgoers began to see fewer and fewer geese, and the dogs started visiting only “intermittently,” Mezzatesta said.
But when flocks descended on the cove this past spring, the park called in the collies once again.
This humane goose-prevention method has been working, he said.
“Everyone here loves this solution — an environment and animal-friendly way to handle a problem that also brings smiles to people’s faces when they see the dogs in action,” he said.
As a result, he added, "people are using the lawns for relaxing, sunbathing and picnicking, just as they were intended.”