Birds living in city parks have long bred controversy

No one, it’s safe to say, is happy with the Bend Park & Recreation District’s recent decision to euthanize about 100 Canada geese, park district personnel least of all. It was the logical if unhappy result of a practice that has been going on at least since I was a child, and no doubt for years before that.

We moved to Bend when I was 6, and one of the pleasures of growing up here in the 1950s and ’60s was feeding the geese and ducks in Drake Park. Downtown restaurants encouraged the practice by giving away stale bread saved just for that purpose.

Not much changed for years. My kids, born in the mid-1980s, thought there was no greater way to spend an hour than to go to their grandmother’s to feed the “mean duckies.” Again, bread was the food of choice.

Now bread isn’t what Canada geese eat in the wild. They’re grazers, and their diet is made up of a variety of grasses, though like most animals and people, if there is an easier choice at hand they’re more than willing to limit their diet. Wheat farmers all along the Columbia River know this: If there’s water nearby, Canada geese will make winter wheat fields regular stops on their daily grazing tour of the neighborhood.

Bread from a human hand is even better. The New Hampshire public television’s NatureWorks website calls bread junk food for geese, and that’s an apt way to describe it. Like French fries from McDonalds for people, bread for Bend’s geese is cheap and all too readily available, it tastes good and while it won’t kill them, it’s not particularly good for them either.

It offers another advantage, as well. Any goose with half a brain will surely quickly figure out it’s far easier to stay in Drake Park year round and dine on bread than to fly thousands of miles to Canada and back each year in search of food. Clearly, Bend’s resident geese are among that smart set.

In fact, Bend’s bright geese figured things out generations ago. As far back as the mid-1980s, city officials, who then were in charge of city parks, were hatching plans to limit the number of resident geese in Drake Park and for the very same reasons park district officials do so today. Geese poop. It fouls the park’s lawns and walkways and, if there’s enough of it, it makes the parks dandy for the fowl but far from perfect for the people for whom the parks were built.

By 1987, officials were ready to begin trapping and moving animals when local residents intervened. Moving the birds would be inhumane, they said. Leave the birds alone, they pleaded. And so officials did.

Newspaper articles about that plan and citizens’ objections to it were at the time just the latest in a long line of discussions about wildlife in the city’s largest waterfront park.

In the 1970s, the worry was that dogs running off leash would scare the birds away, leaving the park without one of the hallmarks that have made it so popular over the years. And in 1971, the city drew up an ordinance banning boats on Mirror Pond for the first six months of the year, the better to protect goose and duck eggs and hatchlings. They did so at the request of human residents along the park who were worried about pushing the birds out of the park permanently. They had reason to worry.

If they’d lived here long enough, they were all too aware of the fate of the park’s swans. Drake Park in the 1940s was home to as many as 35 swans, all of which had disappeared by the 1960s.

The city imported pairs a few years later, but they’ve never caught on and graced Mirror Pond as they did before. The original birds met fates you might expect when wildlife take up residence within the confines of even a small city — they hit power lines or were hit by cars, or, venturing out of the protected waters that flow through downtown Bend, were shot.

Today, as they have been throughout the years, officials have been extremely sensitive to the human support for the birds that live here. They have tried a variety of ways to reduce the current goose population to manageable levels without success.

I don’t think they’re being heartless when they arrange for humane euthanasia of animals that pose a health threat, as the sheer number of geese living here do. Leaving the birds and the people around them to their own devices creates the potential for disease in both and for far less humane methods of removing the birds from our midst.

Janet Stevens is deputy editor of The Bulletin.

Source: The Bulletin ©2010

Dredge the pond

Thank you for the update on dredging Mirror Pond. I would like to invite the group who is reviewing the status to come kayaking and see the exact situation up close. To see the islands of goose turds is absolutely disgusting.

This summer, I was kayaking on Mirror Pond when I decided to get out of my boat to remove a chair that someone had tossed into a very shallow part of the pond, right off the park.

To my surprise, I was sucked into the muck and absolutely could not get out. It came up to my stomach and I just sunk right in. My husband had to come help pry me out. Later, I had another friend who flipped his kayak and it took two people to help pull him back out.

I think if they had this firsthand experience, they might see the real hazard of the situation. I cannot even believe we have people swimming and floating in it. How long before we lose a kid because they can’t get out of it?

Source: The Bulletin ©2006

Mirror Pond Waterfowl Need Feed, Declared By Observers

Dr. J. C.. Vandevert, picture here feeding hungry Mirror pond ducks, declared today that there is danger that the birds will migrate upstream unless feed is provided. The season ducks and geese will again open on Dec. 19, and birds outside the Bend refuge will be legal game.

The city should take immediate steps to provide feed for Mirror pond wildlife if a heavy migration of birds is to be prevented, Dr. J. C. Vandevert, former member of the state game commission, declared today. Unless feed is provided the birds will move upstream, where some natural food is available, and will suffer a heavy slaughter when the waterfowl season is again opened next week, Dr. Vanvedert said.

The ex-game commissioner said the birds are in need of feed, and are receiving some from  persons living near the Mirror pond. However, he believes this is not adequate to prevent a migration of birds to areas where the competition for feed is not so keen.

Arid conditions of the present fall left Drake park unusually dry and the birds are obtaining little green feed there, .Dr. Vandevert mentioned. Aquatic feed has largely slumped into mudbanks in the Mirror pond, he added.

Reports indicate that the upstream migration of ducks has already started. The “second season” on ducks and geese will open Dec. 19 and remain open to Jan. 7, both dates inclusive.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1949

Bottom Gates of Dam Closed And Pond Starts to Fill Again

Bottom gates of the power dam were closed over the week-end, backing water upstream partly to cover the mud bottoms that have been exposed in the Mirror pond basin of the Deschutes river for the past week. The Mirror pond will remain at its present level until work on the top portion of the dam is completed.

Racing incoming water, a crew under the supervision of W. J. Coleman of the pageant committee yesterday repaired the rock piers which for several years have provided anchorage for the pageant arches. An investigation revealed that the rock piers are apparently firm. A new foundation was erected on the piers. Earlier, plans were made for cement piers, but this proposal was abandoned.

Upstream from the Drake park footbridge, pageant booms are deeply mired in the ooze, but it is believed that incoming water will free the partly water-logged timber, permitting the booms to rise to the surface.

Ducks and geese were back on the stream today, apparently in considerable number. There is no way yet of determining whether there was a loss of ducks while the Mirror pond was drained. Some lovers of wildlife expressed a fear that the ducks would fly upstream and into the range of the guns of hunters.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1941

Draining of Pond May Result In Loss of Many Waterfowl

Fear was expressed here today by lovers of wildlife that the draining of the Mirror pond during the open season on waterfowl will result in a heavy loss of birds that normally make their home on the big man made lake now only marked by a swift flowing river and vast mudflats. Seeking more extensive water, ducks and geese are reported to be flying to the up-river country, where they become legal prey of hunters.

It is stressed by the wildlife lovers that the Deschutes river is closed one mile below and one mile above town and that persons shooting birds in the river refuge face arrest and fines.

Despite the fear that the draining of the mirror pond would result in a scattering of the birds, there appeared to be many waterfowl still on the river in town this morning, and in addition there was at least one migrant visitor–a wild swan. This swan battling the swift current in the mudflats below the Drake park bridge this morning. Nearby were a group of the Mirror pond swans.

If the waterfowl are flying out of Bend and Into the range of shotguns, there is little that can be done at present, it was admitted here today. However, hunters were being asked not to shoot at obviously tame mallards found upstream. “When in doubt,” it was suggested in a local barber shop yesterday evening, “the hunter should call ‘duck, duck, duck,’ then hold his fire if the ducks come paddling over in search of a hand out.”

The necessary draining of the Mirror pond, to make repair work on the power dam possible, has also removed the rapidly expanding schools of brown trout from the Mirror pond, and boys of Bend face poor fishing within the city limits next spring. On Sunday, salvage of trout stranded In pools was carried out by boys and grownups who used nets with considerable success.

Work on the power dam facings is being rushed by power company crews. When water was released from the dam over the week-end, it was announced that the basin would be empty tor a week or 10 days.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1941

Scores of Curious Sightseers View Waterless Mirror Pond

Bend’s nearly waterless Mirror pond was far from scenic over the week-end, but the mud bottoms and the sight of the Deschutes twisting through the ooze flats attracted scores of sightseers. Many of these Bend residents had never before seen the bottom of the pond.

Ducks, geese and swans still remained in the stream yesterday, and there were  few excursions of the waterfowl to shore in search of food. In the first place, wading through the mud appeared difficult for the birds, and in the second place the waterfowl had plenty to eat on the mudflats.

Downstream near the Newport avenue bridge, boys Sunday afternoon discovered fish stranded in a drying basin, and immediately started salvage work. Several fine catches were reported, through the use of nets. The season on trout in now closed, but there appeared to be no law against the salvage of stranded trout.

The Mirror pond was drained to permit of work on the power dam, and today this work was well under way. it was announced that the pond would be dry a week or 10 days.

No information was available today as to whether an attempt would be made to construct permanent piers for the Mirror pond pageant arch, but the impression was that this project would not be undertaken.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1941

Deschutes River Eats Way Into Mud as Pond Drained

The Deschutes river, eating its way through mudflats, was nearing its ancient channel on the bottom of the Mirror pond today, as drainage of the big basin, to permit of repair work on the power dam, neared completion. Work releasing water was started yesterday evening, and the pond was lowered about six feet. Today, the gates were further opened, permitting the impounded water to rush into the channel north of the dam.

The silt-filled basin attracted wide attention today, as the river flowed swiftly through the muddy bottom. Swans, geese and ducks did not appear to be greatly bothered by the disappearance of the man-made lake. However, riverside residents report considerable noise by the waterfowl through the night, as the birds apparently sensed that something was happening. This morning, the waterfowl were scouting for food along the drying basin, and were finding plenty, especially aquatic weeds.

To reduce the direct flow of the river as much as possible, water was diverted into the Central Oregon canal upstream, and the Crane prairie gates were closed. It is anticipated that less than 300 second feet of water will be flowing through the channel while the power dam gates are open.

The pond will remain dry for a week or 10 days, power company officials report.

Several projects may be undertaken in the Mirror pond basin while the water is out. Bend pageant committeemen will investigate the possibility of erecting permanent concrete piers for the pageant arch, to replace the temporary rock-filled pier. At Pageant park, the city plans to start work on a waterfront wall. Rock for this work has already been assembled.

Pageant committee anticipates some difficulty in getting the concrete pier constructed, inasmuch as contractors do not appear to be interested in the project. There is a question of finding a solid foundation for the pier.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1941

Mirror Pond Islands

Bend sportsmen agree that the city has shown real interest in mirror pond wildlife through approval of a dog “tie up” ordinance during the nesting season, but the sportsmen believe that the city should not only provide protection for waterfowl, but should make some effort to improve nesting conditions. This improvement  the sportsmen say, can be obtained if the tule islands just below the Tumalo avenue bridge are elevated a foot or two above the water line.

Over a period of years, various plans for the elevation of the tule islands have been suggested and at least one attempt has been made to erect nesting places on sticks. But the artificial nests apparently did not meet with the favor of the waterfowl.

The sportsmen are approaching the problem on a new angle this year. They suggest that the booms used in the connection with the Forth of July pageants be used to form a temporary bridge to the tules and that rock and dirt be moved over the span. The sportsmen suggest that the city undertake the project. Possibly it can be handle as a small WPA project. Certainly the sportsmen’s suggestion is worthy of consideration.

It is true the Bend’s “tie-up” ordinance will keep Drake park and other river areas fairly free of molesting dogs, but birds nest along the river edge are never safe. Cats certainly play a part in night raids. And it is recalled that only a few years ago a grown youth was found on his way home with 21 duck eggs, which he planned to cook and eat. Island nesting places would provide protection against such molestation.

In past years, swans and ducks have built nests on the available tule islands in the upper mirror pond, but this season, because of the high water, the tule are practically inundated  Consequently  the suggestion of the sportsmen may have merit. Permanent nesting places in the upper mirror pond would be a real asset to a city that is so proud of its river wildlife.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1938

Reporter Bested By Mother Goose

Crestfallen, somewhat apologetic, The Bulletin’s waterfront reporter, Paul Hosmer, admitted this morning that he had been very badly “scooped” — a news story that he should have reported about a month ago has showed up on the mirror pond, so old that it has feathers. This story, Hosmer explained, is a lone gosling, first wildlife hatched on Bend’s scenic mirror pond this season.

But, Hosmer apologized, he really had a reason for not discovering the gosling until it was about a quarter grown. The Bulletin’s waterfront reporter, it appears, has been devoting most of his attention to some marital difficulties that have apparently developed on the mirror pond in recent weeks. Since Lela, one of the parent swans of the mirror pond, took up her domestic duties on a slightly elevated nest in the tules just below the Tumalo bridge, Clyde, her mate, has been wandering far afield — in fact, the big bird has been paying little attention to Lela as she sets on an unknown number of eggs out in the Deschutes River.

Last year, Hosmer recalls, Clyde was most faithful to Lela. Seldom did he get more than a hundred yards away from his mate during the nesting season. Several times last year, Hosmer attempted to row close to Lela’s nest, to see if some yellow cygnets might be moving about, but always his approach was blocked by pugnacious Clyde.

“But things are different this year,” Hosmer said, and in his voice there was a hint that birds of the mirror pond should be chatting among themselves, in hushed tones, of the unfaithfulness of a bird that is supposed to stay mated through life. Clyde very frequently makes long excursions down the mirror lake, around the Hosch point and out of sight of his mate. Clyde may just be in quest of food, but Hosmer is a bit suspicious.

But getting back to the lone gosling — and Hosmer was somewhat reluctant to get back — the waterfront reporter said that he had really attempted to keep in touch with the goose family and several weeks ago visited their unoccupied nest, only to find three chilled eggs. Hosmer assumed that some tragedy had overtaken the family and made no further investigation. But it developed that the parent geese deserted their nest after one egg had hatched and had escorted their lone gosling into deep water.

For the past several weeks, the two old geese and their lone offspring of the 1935 season have been making their home on or near the Melvin Cyrus lawn, at 804 Harmon Boulevard, where they are receiving food and attention. Last year, the geese hatched five goslings and immediately went upstream.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1935