Contraceptives Lower Oregon Geese Hatchings
BEND, Ore. Bait laced with a contraceptive resulted in the hatching of fewer pesky Canada geese last spring, according to a study by the National Wildlife Research Center. The bait, tested around Oregon in 2004, could help in long-range plans to manage the geese, which cause crop damage.
Environmental Protection Agency approval for the bait, manufactured by California-based company Innolytics LLC under the name OvoControl G, is expected by the end of the year, Innolytic's CEO Erick Wolf said.
Other attempts have had limited success. Flock counts in Bend parks have put the goose population at 450 birds.
Paul Stell, natural resource manager with the Bend Metro Park and Recreation District, estimated the district spends more than $30,000 annually to clean up goose droppings.
Birds that were trapped and transported elsewhere usually flew back. The use of dogs to harass the geese provided only temporary relief.
Farmers say the federally protected birds cause millions of dollars in crop damage a year, especially in the Willamette Valley.
Rep. Darlene Hooley, D-Ore., has pushed for federal help to make up for the losses.
A federal goose management program has not been funded for the past two years.
Biologists estimate that between 200,000 and 300,000 geese live in the valley -- up from about 25,000 in the 1980s.
The valley is home to seven subspecies of the goose, some more robust than others.
Wolf said the goose contraceptive won't be available commercially until the 2006 breeding season.
The active ingredient Nicarbazin does not build up in the bodily tissue of birds, dropping to undetectable levels five days after consumption, according to the Food and Drug Administration's Web site.
Since Canada geese breed earlier than most other birds, other species who eat treated bait should not be affected, developers say.
The study ran from February through the end of May in 2004 at 10 sites in Oregon.
Half the sites were supplied with treated bait, while the other half received a placebo.
"We achieved a 51 percent reduction in hatchability of eggs in treated sites versus control sites," said Kimberly Bynum of the National Wildlife Research Center. "It was definitely a success."
Wolf said that even after EPA approval, the bait would be used under very controlled conditions.
Only licensed pest-control operators or Wildlife Services personnel could obtain the bait and any organization would need permits before implementing a wildlife management plan.
A previous avian birth-control compound, Ornitrol, was pulled from the market in 1994 because it had adverse effects on non-target species, Wolf said.
He stressed that the project is only part of a management plan, because it will not affect the standing population. Canada geese have a life span of about 20 years.
Source: Associated Press