Lakewood cemetery would welcome dogs to chase away geese

Staff writerJune 4, 2013 

Canada geese and their goslings wander the grounds at Mountain View Cemetery in Lakewood, drawn by a pond that cuts through the property.

LARRY LARUE — Staff writer

Mike Trammell and his two daughters made the drive from Puyallup to Lakewood on Memorial Day to visit the grave of Trammell’s mother at Mountain View Memorial Park.

It didn’t go well.

Sarah Trammell is buried near a pond at the cemetery, and when the family walked up to the gravesite, it was obvious they weren’t the first ones who’d been there.

“There were Canadian geese everywhere,” Trammell said. “Up and down the whole row, it was disgusting. We cleaned my mother’s plaque, but everywhere you walked or stood, there was goose poop.”

Trammell telephoned Mountain View the next day and reached general manager Dave Salove.

It wasn’t the first time Salove had heard the complaint.

“We try to help folks understand, they’re wild animals, and we’d as soon they not be here, too,” Salove said. “That pond holds runoff water and is owned by the city of Tacoma. If it wasn’t there, the geese wouldn’t be there.”

Did that answer please Trammell? Salove knew better.

“People understand, but that doesn’t mean they accept it,” he said. “We’ve got rabbits, raccoons, fox, even coyotes. If someone had a solution to the geese, I’d welcome it.”

Not that the folks at Mountain View haven’t tried. They mow and rake and vacuum the areas most affected, which temporarily cleans up the droppings, but the geese are most active near dusk. That means the earliest human visitors often come upon the bird leavings from the night before.

Salove has tried spraying the grounds with a chemical that was supposed to have a bitter taste for geese.

“It didn’t bother them at all,” Salove said.

“We can’t shoot them; we’re within city limits,” he said. “I’ve called wildlife agencies and been told the best way to control them is to find the nests and take the eggs. The problem is, that pond isn’t ours, and I can’t have our employees wandering around in the reeds and cattails and wetlands.

“It’s been a good hatch for the geese this year. I’m not going to put poison out. Who knows what other wildlife might be affected?”

Salove is frustrated, and he’s not alone.

“If you have water, you have geese,” Joel Kachmarek said. “Geese remember the ponds, and they’ll come back year after year.”

Kachmarek doesn’t work for the cemetery. He’s a greenskeeper at the Tacoma Country and Golf Club, and he’s been in the same situation.

“Noisemakers didn’t have any impact; finding the nests was hard or impossible,” Kachmarek said. “The only thing that worked for us was a dog.”

Kachmarek used a cattle dog for years. He now has a Labradoodle.

“The dog doesn’t catch them — you don’t want that,” he said. “He just chases them. They don’t like it. They’re not comfortable around a dog, and you have to let the dog run three, four times a day.

“It doesn’t have to be for a long time. Just long enough to chase the geese.”

Golfers don’t mind the distraction one bit.

“If you’ve seen what goose poop does to a golf ball, you don’t mind seeing a dog chasing the geese,” he said.

Even that, however, isn’t a short-term fix.

“It probably took three years before geese realized they weren’t wanted here,” Kachmarek said.

Salove’s research has led him to the same conclusion, but there’s a problem. Salove doesn’t own a dog. No one on the cemetery staff does. He’s even looked for a business that might rent one out for the purpose of chasing geese.

No luck.

“I’ve ordered dog decoys, and we’ll move them around, see if the geese respond,” Salove said.

There’s another option he’s considered.

“If someone has a dog trained for this purpose, or wants to train his dog for it, I’m amenable to volunteers,” Salove said. “The dog would have to be good around people. We can’t have a dog barking at people visiting their loved ones.”

Larry LaRue: 253-597-8638

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