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A Season for Shooting 'Problem' Geese

Like football games and falling leaves, goose hunting is a symbol of autumn in western New York. But this year gunfire was heard even before Labor Day, a result of a special 10 day hunting season aimed at thinning the goose population in three counties."It's not the migratory geese that are the problem," said Dale R. Dewing, field crop agent with the Cattaraugus County Cooperative Extension. "It's the ones that live here year round."As the Canada goose population of western New York has grown over the last 20 years, so have complaints from residents, especially farmers and golfers. Fond of CornFor farmers, the problem is economic. In Cattaraugus County, Mr. Dewing estimates that geese have eaten "tens of thousands of dollars" worth of crops, mostly corn grown to feed the county's 26,000 dairy cows. "It's certainly not something that's of disastrous proportions, but it concerns the farmers involved," he said.For golfers, the concern is where there are geese, there are droppings."Many times there's no clean area to lay the golf bag down in," said Benjamin W. Morey, manager of Beaver Island State Park, just north of Buffalo. "Many times the ball gets a color other than white." 1,000 Kills ExpectedTo reduce the goose population, the State Department of Environmental Conservation opened a special 10 day hunting season beginning Sept. 1 in Erie, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua counties. The state's regular goose hunting season runs for 70 days beginning in November.Officials estimate there are 9,000 geese in the three counties. As the Labor Buy Women Canada Goose Trillium Parka Black Australia Day weekend started, the department had issued about 1,500 hunting permits. Each hunter is allowed to kill six birds in the 10 day season, with a maximum of three in one day.If each hunter bagged the limit, the goose problem and the geese would be eliminated. But realistically, officials said, only about 1,000 geese probably will be killed."I know hunters have been very successful in the southern tier counties, Cattaraugus and Chautauqua," said Kenneth J. Roblee, a senior wildlife biologist with the Department of Environmental Conservation. "But I know as far as Beaver Island and the Niagara River, the take has been very light."Not everyone favors the hunting solution to the goose problem."If something is endangering a human being, we can see why you'd have to kill it," said Valerie P. Will, president of Animal Rights Advocates of Western New York. "But just because it's on a golf course?"About 15 members of Mrs. Will's group presented a petition against the hunt to state officials on Aug. 27. Five days later, on the eve of the hunt, the group staged a "wake" at Beaver Island park, leaving wreaths on the turf for the geese about to fall.