David Richardson finally had enough with the geese.
The PGA golf professional at Soldiers Field Golf Course in Rochester, Richardson was sick of fighting a hefty Canada goose population over the past three years. They left droppings everywhere, dead spots on the greens and stains on carts and cleats.
Geese had been a problem for a while in this southern Minnesota city, where a power plant once kept lake water from freezing in the winter and consequently attracted up to 30,000 of the big birds, according to some estimates. They had been at the golf course, too; up to 1,000 fed on the bluegrass from the middle of October through spring.
But for some reason, the geese started nesting along the south fork of the Zumbro River, which flows through the course, Richardson said. And once they nested, they stayed, becoming an annoyance during prime golf season.
So Richardson decided he had to do something. He started searching the internet.
"I started with 'coyote decoys for geese,' " he said. "That led me to dogs."
Richardson found Watch Dog Goose Patrol, a Roseville company that makes dog silhouettes that bounce on a spring.
Company founder Sarah Johnson said her father patented the springs to use with turkey decoys to draw tom turkeys near during hunting season. As Johnson and her father were walking around Lake Como in St. Paul, disgusted by goose droppings everywhere, they noticed that geese seemed to avoid people walking their dogs.
The idea for the company was born.
Nine years later, Johnson now sells thousands of patented dog decoys — 24- by 32-inch shepherd silhouettes made of lightweight corrugated plastic — around the country.
"Make those pesky geese leave you alone once and for all," her website advertises.
Johnson said the decoys won't work in all cases, depending on the property. Her company offers a money-back guarantee, she said. A single dog costs about $60, though they come in "packs" at a discount.
"We invented it for geese, but a lot of our customers use it for other things as well," including scaring away deer, Johnson said. "It's that movement that the animals see."
Richardson ordered eight and placed seven of them strategically on the Rochester golf course in early July. He also encouraged dog owners to bring their pooches to the course to help make the decoys more effective.
"The geese then confuse the decoys with the real dogs," Richardson said. Dog walkers are given an instruction sheet so that they can coexist with golfers on the fairways, he said. "People have been very good with that."
It hasn't all been a wild goose chase, either.
Just a few weeks ago, more than 100 geese were on the course. Last week, the course had no geese on several days.
"It's been working very well," Richardson said.
Migrating geese still inundate the course in October, shutting it down early, Richardson said. But the rest of the season is much more manageable now.
Men's club chairman Rodney Dretsch said golfers are relieved to have clean fairways again.
"A couple of years ago, everybody thought they were so cute when they had two nesting pair," Dretsch said. Now, with the faux watch dogs keeping the geese off the fairways, golfing is "a very enjoyable experience again."
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