A family of geese. Credit: Natalie Williams / BDN

Wildlife officials euthanized a group of geese that were hanging around Northern Light Mercy Hospital in Portland due to patient complaints and concerns about the avian flu.

The geese were euthanized on June 21, according to CBS 13.

“As a hospital, our focus is always on providing safe care to our patients. After receiving numerous complaints from patients and others, we contacted USDA to help us address the situation. While we truly appreciate and understand the concerns raised, we needed to address the infection control issue to ensure the health and safety of those who come to our facilities. Going forward, we will pursue alternative solutions,” said Mercy following the situation.

The USDA say problems arise with Canada geese when they become over-abundant based on population goals set forth by regulatory agencies, and when their presence results in human-wildlife conflicts.

These problems include overgrazing of grass, ornamental plants and agricultural crops; accumulation of droppings and feathers; disease, threats to people [i.e. E.Coli]; attacks on humans by aggressive birds; and the fouling of reservoirs, swimming areas, docks, lawns, and recreational areas.

According to the USDA, the geese population increased 16-fold from 1970 to 2009 from 230,000 to 3.89 million. Goose strikes to aviation and damage complaints regarding resident Canada geese increased at the same time. In urban areas, they have few predators and hunting cannot be used to control the population.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, manages Canada geese under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and sets the rules for how the public and other agencies can interact with geese and other birds. The United States Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services [WS] program works closely with the USFWS to acquire necessary permits, discuss management outcomes, and acquire approval for wildlife damage management strategies.

The USDA said the resident goose populations in the Portland area are very abundant and have become accustomed to human presence. This behavior has led to an alarming amount of droppings which can spread disease to people and has resulted in damage and costly cleanup and repair efforts.

In this situation, the USDA says WS worked with the hospital since last fall, attending meetings and providing numerous non-lethal options including harassment techniques, and chemical application options which remove the attractiveness of the lawn to geese. Because the goose population is over-abundant, these techniques have proven ineffective or in-feasible.

The USDA said given the severity of the situation, the abundance of geese, and imminent threat to human health and safety, it was determined the geese should be removed and humanely euthanized.

Because avian influenza has been found in Maine this year, the state no longer supports translocation of species that may carry the disease.