(CA - US) Goose Busters
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Tue Jun 10 08:27:22 EDT 2003
Article Last Updated: Monday, June 09, 2003 - 4:06:55 AM PST
Goose Busters targets flying scofflaws from the north
By Scott Steinberg, STAFF WRITER
SAN RAMON resident Jan Scott has built herself a niche business that no one seems to be able to duplicate. The recipe for success was straightforward. All it took were well-trained border collies, a hungry gaggle of Canada geese, and frustrated maintenance crews.
>From that, 54-year-old Scott created Goose Busters. It's been not only a job for her, but a mission. Golfers and parkgoers alike consider her a savior as she helps salvage grass and rid turf of fowl droppings.
Scott's goose-chasing days started about five years back. The city of Fremont enlisted her border collies to fight off the hundreds of geese taking over Central Park and Lake Elizabeth.
Her client base grew. San Jose and Redwood City signed on. The Blackhawk and Sunol Valley golf courses and SBC in San Ramon rented Scott and her fleet-footed dogs for $35 per hour. And now she's chasing the birds from Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek.
While she has a certain bit of empathy for the geese, the Southern California native sees her method as the best way to beat the madness.
"Most of the people, they really don't want their children crawling around in goose (feces) all the time," Scott said. "And they don't want to have a picnic with geese under their feet. Geese can be aggressive."
She said she is serving the geese, along with her municipal and corporate bosses.
"Moving them with the dogs is more humane than what the other option is, which is to kill them. People won't give up the park. ... The geese love mown grass. Once they figure out they can't eat, they leave. They're just like you and me. If they can't to go to McDonald's, they'll
go to Taco Bell."
Her clients generally have been pleased with her work, but Jack Rodgers, Fremont's maintenance and recreation director, is not convinced goose busting is the best answer to controlling the goose population.
"It's successful in the short run. We have questions whether it will be successful in the long run," Rodgers said. "What we're doing is just moving geese around. The places that are using this full-predator technique are successful in protecting their assets."
Scott, who grew up with Chihuahuas, began training border collies 17 years ago. In 1992, she founded the San Ramon Sheep Co-op at Forest Home Farms, where the border collies develop their herding instincts.
Not every border collie is able to herd sheep or chase geese. A good goose dog, she said, needs to be friendly with people, unafraid of noises and adept at swimming -- since the dogs are sometimes sent into ponds to chase the geese.
Scott runs just one dog at a time. Communicating with a shepherd's whistle, she works them through a series of commands -- left flank, right flank, stop, recall and "straight at you."
But despite the rigidity in instruction, two of Scott's stars -- 2-year-old Cole and 3-year-old Quick -- weep when they are left behind.
"For them, this is fun," she said.
And for Bob Schaible, who lives near Heather Farms Park in Walnut Creek, it's necessary.
"It's sad that they're chasing them, but this is a people park. The geese are terrible," he said.
Scott Steinberg can be reached at (925) 416-4813 or ssteinberg at angnewspapers.com
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