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

Rifles Kill Two Mirror Pond Swans

Two Mirror pond swans were killed with rifles over the week-end, it was learned when Joe Mayer, old-time employee of The Shevlin-Hixon Company found the birds today noon and removed them from the water. One of the swans had apparently been shot several times. They were in the mill pond above town.

Indignant because the big white birds he had watched for years had been killed, Mayer brought the dead swans uptown this afternoon, showed them to officers, then removed them from his car on Wall street for the inspection of passerby.

Mayer said that shooting on the mill pond is a common occurrence despite the fact that this part of the river is in a bird refuge.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1941

Manipulation of Mill Pond Gates to Reduce River Flow

Power dam gates will be closed by the week-end or the first of next week and the level of the Mirror pond will slowly mount toward normal, power company officials announced today. However, before the gates are closed the direct flow of the river will be reduced to a minimum, to permit of final work in placing new facing on the lower part of the dam.

The flow of the river will be cut In this manner: Mill companies, cooperating with the power company, will release water from the upstream mill pond, then the gates will be closed, shutting off most of the water. However, not all the flow of the river can be cut off, and a stream, greatly reduced, will meander through the mudflats. However, the flow will be sufficiently low to permit of the completion of work on the lower facing on the dam.

The direct flow of the river has already been reduced through upstream dlveralon and storage at Crane prairie. Closing of the main pond gates, after the pond has been partly drained, wlll cut down the flow for about an hour, It Is estimated. On Tuesday, this method of reducing the flow was successfully used.

When the lower facing on the dam just north of the Newport avenue bridge is completed, it will be possible to impound water in the Mirror pond, and this will be done while work on the top part of the dam is being completed, it was indicated by power company officials. The Mirror pond will not reach its normal level until all repair work is completed.

It was a week ago tomorrow night that first water was released from the dam, and repair work was at once started.

There was some difference of opinion today as to whether ducks are flying upstream and into the range of hunters’ guns as a result of the draining of the Mirror pond. The general opinion is that ducks and geese are still ln the channel in considerable numbers, but are not asnoticeable as when the basin is filled.

City officers have announced that no attempts will be made to rid the basin of aquatic weeds, declaring that similar attempts in the past, when the water was out of the pond proved ineffective.

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

Pelican Braves Wrath of Mirror Pond Swans

Bend residents who live near this city’s waterfront early this afternoon were eagerly awaiting a meeting between “Clyde,” pugnacious Mirror Pond swan, and a visiting pelican. Shortly after the noon hour today, the big-billed bird, probably a visitor from the Klamath Lakes, was cruising leisurely around the Mirror Pond still unsighted by “Clyde.”

Pelicans have visited the Mirror Pond before, but never remained long, due to the animosity of the battling swan.

Source: The Bend Bulletin ©1935

Swan Murder Averted Here

Rocks thrown last night from the river’s edge saved Grandsire Clyde, belligerent swan ruler of the Mirror Pond, from the stigma of murdering his own son. Splashing of a stone, as it hit the water, caused angry Clyde to loosen his death grip on the neck of weakening Mox, Clyde’s cherished cygnet of three seasons ago, now his hated rival.

Mox seized the opportunity to escape, and Clyde strutted back to his spouse, Leila, and their 1935 batch of youngsters.

How it all happened is not of record. Paul Hosmer, The Bulletin’s veteran waterfront reporter, was taking his night off, and his understudy did not arrive until the battle between the two was well under way. What started it?

Evidence is available that Mox and his sister, Lockit — his wife as well as sister, for the Mirror Pond swans like the Ptolemies and Incas of old ignore with sublime indifference the taboos of consanguinity — glided serenely past Leila and her brood. It is more than hinted that Mox cast a roving glance in the direction of his ma, that he mentioned possibly that he would be back after he had taken his wife home. Whatever the affront, it was sufficient.

Mox seems to have forgotten Clyde, but Clyde had not forgotten Mox. In super-dreadnaught charge, he arrived, and in an instant battle was joined. Lockit went on her way, but Leila and the cygnets stood by, sometimes so close as to hinder the action of the combatants.

Water turned into foam as the big white birds fought. Resounding thumps, as powerful wings beat, advertised the fray. Wings were being used partly as direct weapons of offense, but more as indirect weapons, it seemed as the technique of swan fighting was unfolded. Each bird was seeking the advantage of superior height, and wings were beating to lift the birds partly out of the water in maneuver for position to apply the neck hold.

Early on Mox had the edge, but Clyde, stronger and more experienced, shook him off. The grip was too low.

Clyde reared, gained greater height, struck downward with twisting, snakelike thrust. Open mandibles enveloped, then closed on the neck of Mox and forced his son’s head underwater. Mox managed to come up for air, but the younger bird was weakening, and Clyde, in vile temper, was relentless. As he forced his son’s head under for the last time, it was plain that there would be one less Mirror Pond swan.

But tragedy was averted, rocks came, and the escape.

When it was all over, Clyde and Leila and their 1935 children were midway between the footbridge and the island. Lockit was still farther upstream, while Mox, the soundly trounced, sulked in the shadow of the footbridge.

Source: Bend Bulletin ©1935