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Life Together

Apparently, geese can produce up to 1.5 pounds of dung every day, going an average of every seven minutes while feeding. All that poo can contaminate water and cause quite a slippery mess for park goers and keepers of lawns.

Deer wander into yards and eat meticulously landscaped plants and lovingly cultivated garden vegetables. In Pittsburgh, deer are overrunning some city parks, depopulating them of seedlings and killing off groundcover, leading to barren hillsides and erosion. And then of course a motor vehicle and a 150-pound white-tailed deer don’t play well together.

Meanwhile, raccoons can kill those new koi fish and then find dessert in your garbage cans, ground hogs steal beans and peas and carrots from backyard gardens, bats get into our belfries (or attics). Because wildlife’s eating and pooing can make such a mess, we get perturbed and turn to sundry means for pushing back, for controlling or killing off these creatures we otherwise appreciate as beautiful and necessary to our ecosystem.

In the Pittsburgh suburb of Mt. Lebanon, deer proliferation has led to rancorous community meetings and various proposals for population control, some of which have been implemented but with little success: sharp-shooting, bow hunting, corralling and relocation, neutering. Of course fences can help redirect these deer, even if not lower the population. “Peanut butter fences” attract deer with that savory spread, but then give deer a nasty shock to the schnoz. Experts and peeved homeowners alike have recommended dangling an odd assortment of things in trees: bar soap, meat scraps, bags of human hair.

If geese are your problem, you can rent a herd dog from the Geese Police to scare them away. Loud barking and a few feigned nips can be enough to encourage geese to flee and never return. Of late, the franchise Geese Police of Western Pennsylvania has seen an uptick in business, especially in urban and suburban areas where the population isn’t controlled by hunting.

The ideal, of course, is to find means of living alongside one another harmoniously, rather than completely emptying our city spaces of such wildlife. Not all solutions can just fall back upon the quickness and efficiency of killing, but neither are such ongoing management practices as mazing miles of fencing and bagging your last haircut and calling out the herd dogs every few months adequate or even sustainable. Seems like we should be capable of finding some better middle road of healthy co-existence, doesn’t it? Some are proposing, for example, new wildlife spaces along Pittsburgh’s rivers, theoretically attracting geese and other wildlife there and away from more built spaces, while giving locals easy means for enjoying these fauna.

If we need nature in order to live healthy and even fulfilling lives, then we also need long-term win-win solutions that enable nature to proliferate in city spaces without causing undue damage and havoc.

Then again, whether we’re talking about humans and animals living together or even just humans dwelling under the same roof (much less humans dwelling together in the same city or country…), life together can be messy. Maybe we also need to learn to just live with some of that mess.


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