Crystal Lake Park Canada Geese Population and Management

After 30 days of public input (April 27-May 27, 2020) and nearly 900 survey responses, the survey is now closed. Thank you to the many participants, who provided their thoughts while COVID-19 prevented the Urbana Park District from facilitating an in person meeting. Comments have been recorded and shared with the Board of Commissioners. Any future comments can be directed to info@urbanaparks.org to be recorded as public record.

Read a Frequently Asked Questions document developed in response to the many thoughts and comments that were noted in survey responses. Here you can also view the final results of the survey.

Introduction and Overview

As the Urbana Park District’s 1907 founding park, Crystal Lake Park has long been a place for enjoying nature and wildlife. The park district works hard to provide quality habitat for birds and other wildlife within the park, and in 2020 significant investment is being made in restoring the lakeshore. The wildlife which reside in the park will always be a key part of what makes Crystal Lake Park so unique and enticing to visitors.

Early within the last decade, the park district was seeing a rising population of resident Giant Canada Geese in Crystal Lake Park. Exciting to see, and fun to watch, the population was an asset to the park initially. These particular Canada Geese live in the park year round, enjoying the easy access to water and lack of predators the park provides. Other species of Canada Geese stop in the park during their migration in the spring and fall, but these resident geese do not. In early summer of 2020, there were over 180 Canada Geese making the nine acre lake their home. Every spring, each nesting pair typically lays 5-8 eggs. Without the management the park district undertakes, the population will continue growing exponentially.

As the population continued to rise, negative impacts began happening on the park and the park district began management efforts in an attempt to limit the impacts. Once a novel sight to see, the overabundant goose population began degrading Crystal Lake Park. Each goose deposits over 1 pound of feces per day, leading to public and employee health concerns, unpleasant and slippery pathways, and poor water quality. Shoreline habitats around the lake, and turf grass within the park, have been grazed and degraded leading to erosion and poor turf quality for visitors to the park. Lastly, the increased goose population has led to neighbor concerns and traffic issues in the park and along Park Street, Broadway Avenue, and even University Avenue.


Dock_picture

Goose feces throughout the park is a concern for both the employees who must clean it, and visitors to the park alike. Feces also washes into the lake and is one contributor to nuisance algae growth.


Since 2012, the park district has spent substantial time and resources managing the goose population in a wide variety of ways. This has included everything from signage discouraging feeding geese, beacon lights, sprays and repellents, predator decoys, fencing, Illinois Department of Natural Resources permitted egg and nest management, dog and laser hazing, and habitat modification. See below for more information and a timeline on goose management tactics.

Coyote_decoy_picture

A coyote decoy, which must be moved frequently, is one of the management strategies the park district employed early on. More recently, a licensed and trained dog hazing service has helped limit goose impacts in portions of the park.

 

It will never be the intention of the Urbana Park District to eliminate Giant Canada Geese from Crystal Lake Park. A part of nature and what makes the park great, the population can be an asset to the park. However, despite the district’s ongoing and intensified management efforts, the impacts continued and concerns from the public persisted. After many years of public input, planning, and design, 2020 will see the park district investing over $2.5 million into shoreline restoration, habitat improvements, water quality improvements, and new recreational amenities such as a boat dock, fishing outcroppings and a new playground. More than ever, it is the most important time to continue increased management efforts to ensure the goose population is controlled and investments in new landscaping and park improvements are protected from degradation.

Lake_edge_rendering
A rendering of the restored shoreline and lake improvement work in 2020.

 

Charity Harvest/Geese Collection and Donation Summer 2020

After six years of egg and nest management, and many other management strategies, the park district moved forward with a Charity Harvest in Summer 2020. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources administered the Charity Harvest program and issued the permit for the collection and culling of geese to take place.  The United States Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services conducted the collection and harvest of geese in late June. They reported 175 geese were humanely collected, transported to a poultry processing facility, and then donated the meat to a food bank in northern Illinois close to where the processing took place. Since the harvest has been performed, it does not mean Canada Geese have been fully be removed from Crystal Lake Park. In fact, it means that the geese remaining within the park have higher quality habitat and create a safer experience for geese and humans alike. The day of the collection, 35 of the collected geese were released back into the park and their numbers continue to fluctuate as the geese continue to move in and out of the park.  Management efforts will continue to maintain a reduced population that is in better balance with the ecology of the lake and surrounding park.

 

A timeline of goose management in Crystal Lake Park

2012    Goose beacons installed in the lake, proved effective in year 1.

2013    Beacon habituation, no longer effective.

2014    Urbana Park District Advisory Committee recommends increased management
            Park district hosts area agency lunch and learn with Illinois Department of Natural Resources Urban Waterfowl 
            Manager to help gather what other options are available for goose management.

2015    Park district seeks public input on egg and nest management, public supportive.
            Training on egg and nest management, 1st year (59 nests/ 118 nesting geese)
            Turf application of chemical deterrents.
            Coyote decoy hazing.
            Physical exclusion (limited fencing) installations in high impact areas.
            Ropes along boat dock and bungee cords on boats added to block access to boats.

2016    2nd year of nest management (44 nests/ 88 nesting geese). Ongoing turf deterrents and decoy hazing, exclusion through limited fencing.

2017    Environmental education programming on the Canada Goose and negative impacts of feeding them
   3
rd year of nest management (50 nests/ 100 nesting geese). Ongoing turf deterrents and decoy hazing, exclusion through limited fencing.

2018    Training and implementation of dog and laser hazing, both which mimic predators of geese.
   Dock and deck application of chemical deterrents.
   4th year of nest management (43 nests/ 86 nesting geese). Ongoing turf deterrents, exclusion through limited fencing

2019    Lake rehabilitation engineering for habitat modification.
            5th year of nest management (39 nests/ 78 nesting geese). Ongoing deck/dock/turf deterrents, dog/laser hazing, exclusion through limited fencing.

2020    UPD hosts area agency lunch and learn with Illinois Department of Natural Resources Urban      
            Waterfowl Manager and U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.
            UPD begins lake rehabilitation project and habitat modification: $2.5+ million investment on lake
            and park amenities.

            6th year of nest management. Ongoing deck/dock/turf deterrents, dog/laser hazing, exclusion through limited fencing.
            Charity Harvest reduced park population from over 180 down to 35 geese.
            Shoreline restoration begins, regrading and planting tall native grasses to make lake less accessible to geese