Minnesota Sen. Dave Senjem wants to give Canada geese a fighting chance amid efforts to control their population in Rochester and the rest of the state.
The longtime Republican senator from Rochester recently attached an amendment to an omnibus bill that would temporarily halt the issuing of state permits allowing goose eggs to be oiled to prevent them from hatching or the use of other methods to destroy them. The yearlong moratorium would allow legislators to discuss whether those methods are acceptable.
The proposed moratorium isn't included in the House version of the bill, so it would have to be reconciled in conference committee.
"If it doesn't work out, I at least will have drawn some level of attention to this," Senjem said.
He was taken aback when Rochester officials chose to reduce the number of goslings that would hatch this spring. A company that the city hired partnered with volunteers to roam four local parks in search of goose eggs that they slathered in corn oil, thereby cutting off the oxygen supply needed for a gosling to develop.
Following protocols set by the Humane Society of the United States, only eggs that were within 14 days of gestation were treated because it's believed the embryo doesn't yet experience pain, Paul Widman, Rochester's director of parks and recreation, has said.
Eggs that rose or floated in a bucket of water indicated a developing embryo and were returned to the nest to be hatched, he said. Treated eggs also were returned to the nest; otherwise the goose might have laid more.
After the normal 28 days of gestation, the treated, unhatched eggs were to be destroyed by volunteers so that mother geese still on the nests could move on.
Is "shoving a goose off the nest, picking up eggs, oiling them and putting them back and falsely letting the mother goose sit on them when nothing is going to happen respectful? I find that offensive and I think we can do better," Senjem said. "I think we should respect wildlife."
At the very least, there should have been more public discussion about the egg oiling before it was done, he said.
A couple dozen people turned out to protest the oiling, and other critics lit up social media last month, lambasting city officials for messing with Mother Nature and raising concerns that Rochester's much beloved geese might eventually be wiped out.
"Rochester isn't used to protests, so a group of people out protesting this kind of activity is a pretty big deal in our town," Senjem said.
City officials have said they don't intend to eliminate geese from the city but instead merely want to strike a balance because the resident giant Canada geese leave large amounts of poop that slicks up trails, fouls playgrounds and beaches, and contaminates water.
The city's push to control the population doesn't affect the migratory geese that leave to nest in Canada.
Senjem contends hunting would be a better way to control the bird's population. The hunting season for them could be extended and the number of birds hunters are allowed to shoot could be increased, he said.
"This would give [the geese] a sporting chance," Senjem said.
Although he's not a huge fan of the idea, Senjem said that even rounding up the birds in the summer to be processed for food shelf meat would give geese a "sporting chance not to be netted."
"I would rather see a goose be allowed to come out of its egg, grow up and be allowed to become a game bird," he said.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788