Early this spring, NIH’ers began noticing coyote decoys popping up on campus lawns, usually in close proximity to gaggles of Canada geese. The decoys, some frozen in postures of menace, were imported to campus to discourage the birds from fouling campus walkways and roads.
This summer, however, the decoys have been stowed away. Surveys conducted during the month of June showed nary a goose on campus. “There’s nothing here to scare, so we put them in storage,” said Trevor Lubbert, senior staff entomologist with the Community Health Branch, Division of Occupational Health and Safety, Office of Research Services.
ORS acquired nine coyote decoys and deployed them during the goose nesting and egg-laying season early this year. “The nesting season starts in the early spring and lasts until the end of June,” Lubbert said. At the height of the season, his team conducted three surveys each week to determine the best placement for the decoys.
While it is not certain that the decoys frightened the geese—some passersby reported seeing geese munching happily in the vicinity of the faux predators—they certainly brought out the wag in some campus denizens, who would plant dog biscuits in some of the decoys’ mouths or festoon them with Mardi Gras beads.
“We had a lot of problems with jokesters,” Lubbert conceded. So much so that signs were posted next to some of the decoys, indicating that they were government property and not to be interfered with. “I get that, but it defeats the purpose of the program.”
Lubbert says his team is still conducting campus surveys and collecting data, although at a greatly reduced frequency. “There’s no need for that level of intensity,” he said. Should the Canadas reappear next spring, the decoys can be redeployed “at the drop of a hat.”
Lubbert observed that “there is almost a direct correlation between the start of construction at Ehrmanthe Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and the emergence of a goose problem on this campus…We may not see the geese again, since construction over there is done now.”
The WRNMMC has undertaken its own Canada goose management program, Lubbert noted. “There was quite a large population across the street at one time,” he said.
If the decoys did their job for good, they will be missed. “Everybody got a kick out of ’em,” Lubbert said.—Rich McManus