Geese in Denver killed by city to reduce population, meat donated to charity

The "capture and euthanize" program hopes to, among other things, reduce the over 5,000 pounds of goose droppings that accumulate daily in Denver.
Image: Canada geese Denver, Colorado
People walk by Canada geese near Ferril Lake in City Park on July 21, 2016, in Denver.Helen H. Richardson / Denver Post via Getty Images

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By Minyvonne Burke and Nicole Acevedo

Geese in Denver are getting rounded up and killed, with the meat from some of them donated to charity, in a government effort to reduce a growing population of the fowl that city parks officials say is causing safety and environmental hazards.

The "capture and euthanization" program has sparked some criticism, including from an area biology professor who slammed the practice as unethical "slaughter."

But officials say reducing the goose population in the city, which is estimated at 5,000 in the summer months, will improve water quality in lakes and ponds by significantly reducing the amount of goose waste in the area.

Denver absorbs more than 5,000 pounds of goose droppings daily, according to Scott Gilmore, deputy executive director of the Denver Parks and Recreation.

“That’s 35,000 pounds of poop a week, 140,000 pounds a month!” Gilmore told the Denverite. “It all ends up in our streams and waterways.”

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The parks department did not immediately return NBC News' request for comment.

NBC affiliate 9News reported Friday that the culling started this month, with a team from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services assisting Denver in the practice.

According to the Denver Parks Department's goose management plan, the euthanization program would include having some of the goose meat processed at poultry plants for human consumption and donated to charitable organizations. In other cases, the carcasses of euthanized geese would be buried or incinerated.

A USDA spokesperson said in a statement that goose meat is "safe for human consumption" and will be "donated to needy families."

Canada geese are protected under the Migratory Bird Act, but Denver's parks department received authorization from both the state and the federal government to "manage its goose population via roundups" and "a long-term goose management strategy" with the USDA's help.

The USDA was granted permission by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove up to 2,200 geese from within Colorado in 2019, the spokesperson said.

"The resident goose population in this area is too large, which causes many problems including overgrazing of grass, ornamental plants and agricultural crops; accumulation of droppings and feathers; disease, attacks on humans by aggressive birds; and the fouling of reservoirs, swimming areas, docks, lawns, and recreational areas," the statement said.

One critic, retired University of Colorado Boulder professor of biology and ecology Dr. Marc Bekoff, said the euthanization move was “reprehensible” and would be ineffective.

“Killing them will not work in the long run,” Bekoff told 9News. “We will face this problem next year, as they faced in the past. Because once humans become part of the equation, in many cases they have to always be part of the equation."

Denver Parks and Recreation acknowledged it would be an ongoing process, but claimed progress has already been made. "We've removed a lot of the resident population,” Gilmore told 9News. “So, no matter what, it will take time for that resident population to grow back. So, we just have to manage that situation."