Friday, January 11, 2002

Geese, ducks get first laugh at inaugural waterfowl hunt

The Associated Press

        GREENUP, Ky. — When about 20 hunters showed up for the first-ever waterfowl hunt at Greenbo Lake State Resort Park, the ducks and geese left.

        The birds that have littered recreational areas with droppings took off shortly after daylight when the hunters took positions around the frozen lake in northeastern Kentucky.

        Steve Thomas, a goose hunter from Lexington, said he heard a flock honking in the distance Thursday morning, followed by the sound of gunshots. After that, he said the lake grew silent.

        The ducks and geese are a favorite among some park visitors because they swim close to the shoreline to be fed potato chips and bread. Although no one showed up to protest the hunt, park superintendent Bobby Bowe said he received phone calls and e-mails from people who were opposed.

        “I don't understand why they want to kill them,” said Renee Melvin of Ashland. “They're beautiful, and people love to go out there and feed them. They're not hurting anyone.”

        Mr. Bowe said he expects about 50 of the estimated 250 birds to be shot during the monthlong season.

        As Richard Christian left the lake with his double-barrelled shotgun at about 10 a.m., he said he had seen several geese earlier in the morning before the shooting began. He said he didn't know how many were killed.

        Rick Mauro, a biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said the birds most likely moved to the Ohio River about 10 miles away.

        For more than a decade, geese have been congregating on the 200-acre lake, waddling along grassy areas and leaving messes in their wake. Tom Clay, the park's business manager, said the park had to close a beach because of high levels of fecal bacteria that was blamed on the birds.

        “We've got way too many of them,” Mr. Clay said. “They've become a problem. That's the bottom line.”

        Mr. Clay said park employees have had to spend about two hours a day with water hoses washing droppings off sidewalks and parking lots around the boat dock and swimming pool.

        Wildlife biologists captured many of the birds in the late 1980s and took them to Cave Run Lake about 60 miles away. They immediately flew back to Greenbo. Park officials later tried to frighten the geese away with pyrotechnics. They weren't fazed.

        “We're not doing this because we hate the birds,” Mr. Clay said. “We're doing it because we have a problem. We don't want to get rid of all the geese. We still want to be able to view them, take pictures of them from a distance.”


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