Back in the early days of television, we watched the CBS’s show: “What’s My Line”, which ran from the from 1950 to 1967. The game required celebrity panelists to question contestants until they guessed their occupation. If the show were aired today Ann Mazur could easily be a winning contestant. But rather than guessing what Ann does, I asked her and at the same time we asked photographer Bill Munro to go along and record a working day.
Photographs by Bill Munro, Murray Isle
What do you do?
I manage Green Acres Goose Control, Inc. with my partner, Harry (Steve Harrington) and we live off Black Creek Road in Clayton. The company is committed to the humane management of Canada geese using trained Border Collies. The dogs, when teamed with skilled human handlers, use their natural herding tendencies in conjunction with specific training for goose control to discourage Canada geese from visiting places where they are not welcome.
After five years of working in communities and parks along the St. Lawrence River, Green Acres Goose Control, Inc. has seen the Canada goose population grow exponentially. This has given me plenty of opportunity to practice the effective techniques necessary to clear geese, and keep them away. As you may have seen, gimmicks like plastic owls or turkeys, dog cut outs, fences and swinging whirly gigs do not work effectively.
Our clients say that the Border Collies, which continually surprise & disturb the geese, are the only proven way to deter the geese.
When did you start your business?
In 2007, I started Green Acres Goose Control and in April 2008 I moved and started working in the 1000 Islands. Prior to that I worked for 2 years on Long Island, and north of New York City, which is how I learned the business of goose chasing with trained Border Collies.
Names, and ages of the dogs?
I presently have five dogs. Four that work and one that is age 14.5 and has retired.
Daisy age 5, rescued from a family who couldn't care for her on Fort Drum
Carolina, age 3, rescued from Glen Highland Farm Border Collie rescue in Morris, NY
Bruce, age 6, purchased from a sheep farmer in Vermont
Leia, age 14.5, team mascot
And our latest addition, Kym, age 3, is formally trained in agility and sheepherding, and her previous owner felt she needed a new line of work due to some foot injuries.
Can you give me one or two interesting stories about your jobs?
There are many! Every day is an adventure. For the dogs the goose chase is like a canine triathlon. They get to run after geese on the grass, swim after them in the water, and herd them from a boat. It's an epic battle between dogs and geese (and the dogs always win.)
We are fortunate to work very close to the geese and are able to get up-close observations on their activity patterns and behavior.
They are majestic creatures with very strong family ties. I have seen them nest in obscure places like flower boxes, tree stumps, even on the top of a 3 story building. Herons, osprey and eagles are regularly seen as well as schools of perch, mink, terns, turtles, beavers and coyote.
One of the most interesting facets of the job is the bond that develops with a working dog. We use Border Collies because they are workaholics and their intense focus is intimidating to the geese, which drives them away. To be out on the River at dawn, when the sun is rising and the fog is burning off, providing a valuable service that helps others get more enjoyment from the River, is very powerful. When people have a goose problem, they usually come to me saying they have "tried everything" and are skeptical of whether or not the service will be effective. Being part of a team that uses the Border Collies natural gift to solve a problem that has plagued property owners for years, is gratifying.
Advice as to how people can make their homes less friendly for the geese:
Make your property less inviting:
Waterfront property should have a wall, or landscaping, which prevents the birds, especially babies, from getting out of the water and onto the grass.
Dog cut-outs, alligators with sparkly eyes, noisemakers, windsocks or spreading moth balls, chemicals or grape Kool-Aid on the grass, etc. don't work. Instead of a do-it-yourself solution, think about letting dogs do the work.
How long does your “program” take?
In order to deliver a superior quality service, it is essential to make visits every day, focused around dawn and dusk. When the geese see the dogs repeatedly, they eventually become trained to avoid the places where they feel threatened. Still, they will persist, trying to reclaim the places they love to eat and drink at, so we are always there, ready to thwart their efforts. Because of the unique nature of the islands, Canada geese have many pristine nesting habitats, and the population is exploding, so we keep very busy.
Thank you Ann… and thank you Bill Munro. Now I have to admit that I would not have thought of such a unique and interesting profession if I was on a celebrity panel, but as an island owner I can understand why Ann Mazur and her Green Acres Goose Control business is a success. We love to see those beautiful geese swimming in the bay, and we love to hear their honking in the spring, to signal that winter is over – but sharing our green space is not always a pleasure.
By Susan W. Smith, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s Note: After we asked Bill Munro, who summers on Murray Isle, to accompany Ann and her Green Acres Goose Control team on job, Bill called to say how much he enjoyed the day. “Susie, you should see those dogs at work. They are truly amazing. I look forward to going back in the fall to see them working with an older and more experienced flock of geese.”