SEATTLE – New technology may allow peaceful coexistence with Canada geese, whose daily 5-pound poop production has had officials here and in other cities killing them by the thousands.
"It's basically a carpet sweeper for grass," said Ed Zylstra, inventor of the patent-pending Goose Goo Gone machine and co-founder of Naturesweep, based in Victoria, British Columbia.
Seattle is the first U.S. municipality to try Naturesweep's device, a boxy little trailer with rotating bristles. The company is providing a free test run for the city Parks Department, which has an agreement with the Progressive Animal Welfare Society to look into nonlethal means of controlling the problem.
The geese don't migrate if there's food year-round, causing problems in urban parks. In addition to lethal removal, geese in the Puget Sound area have been herded by dogs, shipped to rural areas and prevented from multiplying by "addling," or oiling, their eggs.
According to the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, Washington state has about 70,000 resident Canada geese — each producing as much as 5 pounds of waste per day.
Zylstra, a welder, said he came up with the machine after goose droppings on Victoria play fields got in the way of a kids' soccer team he coached.
The 4-by 4-foot trailer is towed behind a small lawn tractor. A gas-powered motor turns the nylon bristles to "tickle" the grass without damaging it. Droppings and other debris go into a hopper made of a special plastic that can hold up under nitrogen-laden droppings.
In a test run this week at a park near downtown, the hopper was quickly loaded — not only with poop, but also old turf plugs, cigarette butts and spent fireworks. Zylstra says it can also pick up lighters, bottle caps and even syringes.
If the machine passes muster with the city, it's available for $13,000 — with discounts for multiple purchases. Zylstra said he would donate some of the proceeds to the animal welfare society.