But on Petrie Island in Ottawa in Ontario, the tables have turned. After trying decoys and dogs to lure the geese elsewhere or chase them off the island outright, the city is using a drone to solve the island's goose problem once and for all.
Steve Wambolt, the owner of Aerial Perspective, originally asked the city how his drones could be of use from a photo-taking perspective. "I solicited the city for a photography opportunity," he told ABC News. "But they asked if I could use them to get rid of the geese."
Ottawa City Councillor Bob Monette said that it wasn't the geese themselves that were causing problems on Petrie Island. "It's their excrement," he said. "Each goose can produce one and a half pounds of feces per day."
In addition to dirtying shoes, goose poop also presented a health risk for the city because of bacteria. "We take an E.coli count every day at Petrie Island," said Monette. "The department of health has strict rules that if the count is higher than 100, people are not allowed to swim. Last year, the east beach at Petrie Island was closed a total of 13 days due to high E.coli counts."
|"Each goose can produce one and a half pounds of feces per day."|
Wambolt took the city councillor up on his offer to get rid of the poop problem from its avian source. But first, he needed to make substantial changes to his drones. Monette told him to ditch the camera, which substantially changed how the drone flew. "I was grabbing stuff from Radio Shack and hodgepodging stuff together to get the weight and balance right," he said.
He eventually succeeded in building the new drone, trademarked as the Goosebuster, with a patent pending in Canada. After several preliminary tests in May, the drone was first used on Petrie's shores in late July.
The drone itself is 26 inches in diameter and flies, thanks to its six 10-inch rotors. It's equipped with speakers and bright lights similar to those of a police siren, although it's not always necessary to activate all the bells and whistles on the Goosebuster.
"What I do with it is that I'll move [the Goosebuster] forward and then pull it back at a 15-degree angle," said Wambolt. His piloting style creates a distinct sound and a substantial amount of downdraft that the geese feel. "We're probably 30-40 feet away from the geese, and they take off."
The majority of them also stay off Petrie Island. "Before Steve started the pilot project, the island had about 140 to 150 geese coming each day," said Monette. "Steve drastically reduced the amount of geese that come back to the island." He estimates that there are only 12 to 15 geese that continue to make daily visits.
Monette also noticed that the E.coli count has dropped since the Goosebuster started making its sweeps. "This year, since the pilot project [started] in late July, the beach has not been closed once," he said. "There could be many factors incorporated with the [E.coli] counts, but I believe that the Goosebuster has had a major effect on allowing the residents to use the beach all summer long."
The Goosebuster's first run is slated to end in October. Provided it's successful in keeping geese off Petrie Island's beaches, the councillor will expand its use to other public beaches in the city.
Although Wambolt's friends and colleagues warned him that his work might get some backlash from animal activists, he's received nothing but compliments so far. "There's been zero negative experience," he said. "We attract a lot of attention, and kids come up to us asking about the Goosebuster. While we educate them about the Goosebuster, we also remind them to not feed the birds."