This summer, two breeding pairs of Canada goose captivated Loring Park.
The migratory birds, who mate for life and parent together, raised their young from tiny balls of yellow down to near flight-ready adolescents. They enchanted nature photographers, bird seed scatterers, preschool tow lines, and residents of surrounding senior and public housing.
The geese trusted humans completely, and people loved following their progress the way they love watching the DNR eagle cam.
Last week Parks and Rec abruptly rounded up both families -- five goslings who lived on one of Loring's dumbell ponds and four on the other. The adults were slaughtered for meat and allegedly donated to food shelves somewhere in Minnesota (Parks and Rec didn't know which ones). The goslings were processed for animal feed.
Some residents witnessed the goose chase, and as word fanned through the neighborhood, many were distraught.
"I am so angry and disgusted by a recent MPRB-approved action I can hardly sleep," says Kay Hansen, who owns a business on Harmon Place. She has been watching the goose families ever since the April blizzards, when the first mother nested her eggs even while snow piled up on her head.
"There's also another group that you don't hear from as much. They are folks who, for one reason or another, have stopped thinking of themselves as part of the regular world -- they are the elderly, the lonely, the homeless and abandoned," Hansen says. "Souls too gentle to live among a world of perceived predators, their interaction with the wildlife of Loring Park may be the only love transaction they experience on any given day, week, or month."
There's the feeling that despite the Canada goose's reputation for being mean, aggressive poop-machines, the Loring Park families were different. They were known only to hiss at dogs and ducks.
Minneapolis Parks has been removing nuisance geese since 1982. They'd relocate them until the mid-1990s, at which point they began capturing to kill.
Overpopulated geese in the metro area could be a problem for planes, says Jeremy Barrick, Park director of environmental stewardship. They drop bacteria-laden feces in swimming waters. And unconscientious park users sometimes feed goslings bread, which is high in carbohydrates and causes a developmental deformity called "angel wing." Two of the nine Loring Park goslings had it, and were never going to fly.
"We'd like to see Loring sustain one breeding pair of geese as opposed to allowing multiple," Barrick says.
Yet goose contractor Tom Keefe rounded up every single Loring goose, down to the last healthy gosling. He will be paid $250 for a park population survey, $1,600 for site-wide removal, $23 per adult, and $13 per young.
Sigrid Kornacker, 75, who lives next to the Walker Art Center, says she would have prefered if Parks and Rec had only removed the two sick birds and used them to teach parkgoers about the dangers of overfeeding wild animals. Or harassed the adults out of the park before they could hatch their eggs.
It makes her sick to think the adults might have flown away, had they not tried to protect their young until the end.
"There's something very wrong when the contractor profits by the goose," Kornacker says. "That contradicts the mission of population control."
Keefe didn't respond for comment.
In response to many complaints about the removal, park commissioner Jono Cowgill says he's been trying to think of ways to gauge the community's connectiveness to certain animals before handing down removal orders.
Cowgill, who bikes through Loring Park every day on his way to work, has seen the goslings for himself. This was a situation, he says, in which a large park system's wildlife management practices just couldn't spot the difference between ordinary geese and special geese.
"I have to say for every handful of folks who reach out to me about frustrations around the removal, there are others who reached out to say, 'I hate the geese. They run after me.' I'm balancing both of those kinds of sentiments," Cowgill says. "But I don't think that these geese, these families of geese, were threatening anybody or hurting anybody."