After a two-day process to transfer the domestic geese living on college grounds to a new home, Director of Environmental Health and Safety Mike Malloy followed through with plans to establish a goose-free SUNY New Paltz using college funds to purchase a trained border collie.
Costing a total of $5,500 from the college’s maintenance and repair reserve, Augie was picked up at Big Bend Farm in Virginia on Saturday, Jan. 15, by Malloy and will be used to herd Canada geese when they begin visiting the campus in early March.
Prior to Augie’s purchase, Malloy and a team of campus grounds workers – as well as animal rescue volunteers and representatives from the New Paltz-based animal protection organization Wildlife Watch – were tasked with rounding up the 25 domestic geese living on campus. They would be shipped to Nancy Pikulik, the owner of a waterfowl rescue farm in Delaware called Wings of Hope.
“Nancy not only said she could take all of [the geese], but we were happy to see that [Wings of Hope] was really the best place for them,” said Anne Muller, president of Wildlife Watch. “I know it will help with the border collie because otherwise [the geese] would be terrified. This way, they’re in a place where they can be happy.”
During the “round-up” and shipment process of the domestic geese, Malloy said great lengths were taken to ensure the safety and humane treatment of each bird.
After gathering them in a pen, Malloy said he remained overnight in the Student Union adjacent to the geese to keep guard.
The following morning, a horse trailer lined with hay for bedding was used to transport the geese to Delaware, where they were given leg bands to identify them amongst Pikulik’s 27 resident geese.
“It was a sight to see our geese intermingle with her existing domestic geese,” Malloy said. “Understand these geese have never seen any other domestic geese besides their own group. It was loud and exciting.”
Currently acting as Augie’s official caretaker, Malloy said veterinary care, including medication and preventative costs, will be donated by Dr. Michael J. Halstead, owner of the Lake Katrine Animal Hospital. Food costs, however, will be paid for by the Environmental Health and Safety operating budget.
While Malloy believes the geese were not safe living on campus and were a constant problem for the facility and cleanliness, others have disagreed.
According to first-year undeclared major Steven Berkowitz, the geese were welcomed members to the campus community and their removal was uncalled for.
“I cannot imagine a dog trained to be threatening being any less disruptive or noisy than geese that were just trying to live in a nice environment,” he said. “Also, isn’t this school in debt? Why would an educational institution cut classes but buy an expensive and undoubtedly menacing dog?”
However, Malloy said costs will not be an issue and will quickly be recovered by savings resulting from discontinued clean-up expenses that were once spent on the removal of goose feces from the school’s turf.
According to Malloy, purchasing Augie was also a much better solution for removing the geese than a possible alternative method.
“The previous proposal was $85,000 to ‘humanely’ destroy the domestic geese and feed the local human food shelters and have a dog service for three years,” he said. “I found an actual home where the domestic geese are being cared for, so I think it is a win win situation.”
Malloy said becoming Augie’s guardian was an adjunct function he volunteered for and he will still maintain his regular job duties as director of Environmental Health and Safety.
Malloy plans to allow Augie time to patrol for geese during breaks in his own schedule, which will mostly be around 6:30 a.m. and later during the day at 5 p.m.
“His routine will be to herd any Canada geese that may land on campus, typically around the ponds,” Malloy said. “I will be joining him with my kayak on the largest pond to help herd the geese. The geese look at him as a predator and fly away. He never bites or harms them.”
Malloy said he has also taken steps in introducing Augie to students and members of the faculty during Resident Assistant (RA) training week over winter break.
“This will help people feel more comfortable with a dog off leash running around our ponds,” Malloy said. “I wanted to ensure I followed up with my promise to the campus of obtaining a dog to help with the goose problem, and to do what was right for our domestic geese.”
At the meeting, Malloy said he informed students and staff not to stare directly into Augie’s eyes because border collies have a tendency to use their stare to intimidate sheep and geese into herding.
Although Augie has a very friendly personality, Malloy said he recommends students only glance at his eyes and avoid long periods of contact so as to not make him feel intimidated.
Since there are currently no Canada geese on campus to shoo, Malloy said Augie might have a tendency to want to herd the duck.
But with some training, Malloy said, Augie will soon know to avoid them altogether.
“He will learn from me what I want him to herd, through voice, whistle, commands and food rewards for good behavior,” Malloy said. “He will understand after a while what I want him to do. He is a very smart dog.”