Something fowl is afoot

Geese walk en masse near Roth Pond at Stony Brook University on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Overpopulation of resident Canadian Geese are causing problems on the campus. The droppings from the animals can cause health problems. Photo by Alexandra Weldon
Geese walk en masse near Roth Pond at Stony Brook University on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Photo by Alexandra Weldon)

It’s messy, squishy, and you can see it everywhere on campus. 

The resident geese that inhabit the grounds of Stony Brook University, leaving their droppings in plain sight, may not run afoul of specific campus regulations, but their human counterparts are not too thrilled at their presence on campus.

While some human campus residents, students, and faculty say they appreciate nature and are not bothered by the birds’ presence, some others say the birds are more than just an inconvenience. They say the fowls are a nuisance, and what they leave behind quite disgusting and may pose a health risk.

There are about 300 to 500 Canada geese on campus, said Kevin Tumulty, manager of industrial hygiene in the Environmental Health and Safety department at the university. The rent- and tuition-free residents spend the year mainly where they are born, right on campus grounds, and don’t migrate. Tough luck for everyone else on campus who crosses paths with the geese at some point and steps right into their waste. They congregate at the different water bodies on campus, including the Roth Pond. Their diet consists of grass, grains, bulbs and berries.

Tumulty said each goose eliminates 2-3 pounds of fecal matter a day, leaving plenty of poop around campus.

Goose droppings are seen near Roth Pond at Stony Brook University on Thursday, July 25, 2019. Overpopulation of resident Canadian Geese are causing problems on the campus. The droppings from the animals can cause health problems. Photo by Alexandra Weldon
Goose droppings are seen near Roth Pond at Stony Brook University on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Photo by Alexandra Weldon)

And faculty and students alike are not pleased with having to tiptoe around geese waste.  

“When I walk here with my sister, we have to make sure to walk faster when we walk past the geese, and also we have to look at the ground to make sure we’re not stepping on anything,” said student Hannah Lin, who has had the misfortune of stepping into geese poop.

“It is annoying,” said Kathleen Pekoff, who was attending new student orientation on campus. “You do have to watch where you’re walking. So if you step in it, it’s not very pleasant.”

Besides the hygiene factor, Tumulty, whose job is to maintain a clean environment on campus, said geese droppings also affect the bodies of water. The droppings, he said, “cause issues with heavy rainfalls. They’ll wash into water bodies, some of the repercussions of that is that you have algae blooms. It deprives the water of oxygen. It’ll affect the fish life, so it’s an issue.”

The droppings also contain parasites, E. coli and bacteria that can pose health risks, Tumulty said.

Despite all that, not everyone on campus gets their feathers ruffled so easily over the geese or their poop.

“Generally, I’m feeling OK about them because I think I’m a fan of animals, so I’m quite OK with them,” said student Yao Ma. “Except there are several locations where there are some defecations of them which may be a little bit stinky. But generally speaking, it’s OK.” 

Stony Brook staff member Paula Norte said there’s nothing she can do to change the fowl doings on campus.

“It is nature,” she said. “They do have to do their necessities. It’s not like they have bathrooms they can go to. But thank God we get rain once in a while that’ll wash it away. But generally I watch where I walk.”

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