Geese taste grapes of wrath

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Scientists have devised a grape-flavoured solution to the enduring problem of the Canada goose, a natural-born thug that threatens to bury town parks in its excrement.

Experiments with a spray made of a flavouring found in grapes, which tastes sweet to humans but repulsive to the geese, have shown there is a non-violent alternative to culling and birdscaring.

According to Paul Curtis, a scientist at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York , who helped to invent the spray, the active ingredient is a harmless ``food grade'' substance called methyl anthranilate that tastes like hot peppers to a Canada goose.

When Dr Curtis tried out the spray in a small New York City park where about 120 Canada geese had made a home next to a children's play area, the flock soon moved off after initially trying to clean their palates in the nearby pond.

Dr Curtis said the spray degrades naturally and is rendered harmless to other wildlife. ``It is important to use the spray at the right time of year, before the birds moult in summer, so that they are still able to fly off to another place.''

Britain, like the United States, has suffered a serious explosion in the population of Canada geese, which is expected to double to 120,000 by the end of the decade. The goose was first introduced by Charles II in the 17th century as an ornamental species.

Each goose produces up to 2lbs a day of excreta. Geese can aggresssively crowd out other wildfowl when their numbers build up and their gand-like behaviour has earned them a reputation as the bullies of the bird world.

Last year, the Department of the Environment declared war on the birds but its plans to pour paraffin over geese eggs and shoot adults in the dead of night ran into opposition from animal lovers such as the musician and entertainer Paul McCartney and Carla Lane, the television script writer.

Dr Curtis said that his spray will help to overcome the difficulties of killing the birds in a built-up area, but accepted that culling and egg pricking will ultimately be the only effective ways of controlling Canada goose populations.