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One Bird Shot, But Geese Mostly Paddle Peacefully Out Of Harm’s Way

October 21, 1986

GARDNER, Mass. (AP) _ A small group of geese paddled peacefully out of shotgun range in the city’s drinking water supply, as undaunted by scattered shots fired by hunters as they had been of the efforts to evict them.

Three carloads of hunters and officials of the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who had compared the hunt to ″shooting pigeons in a city park″ were on hand at the opening of the hunting season.

The first shots rang out shortly after dawn Monday as Gardner officials, who want to oust a flock of wild Canada geese they claim are dirtying the water supply, opened downtown Crystal Lake to hunting.

The hunt has been attacked by animal rights’ activists, and the shooting of a goose triggered a confrontation between activists and state game officials, according to the MSPCA.

MSPCA spokesman David Scanzoni said an animal care specialist with the society rowed out to the wounded bird and brought it to shore where he planned to bring it to an animal hospital in Boston.

But, according to Scanzoni, a supervisor for the state environmental police ordered the society official to give the wounded bird to the hunter who shot it.

MSPCA member Sarah Romer said the group, which stationed itself on the lake with a boat to retrieve wounded birds for a second day today, has vowed ″not to give up anymore birds.″

Daniel Lemerise, district supervisor for the state environmental police, was in the field and could not be reached for comment this morning.

Meanwhile, Councilman Clarke K. Stedman urged fellow council members Monday to block the hunt, but the motion failed on a 5-5 vote.

In September, the City Council adopted an ordinance and $50 fine against feeding the birds in hopes they would leave.

But the birds just moved across the street to Mount Wachusett Community College, where they have been rooting for grubs on the college lawns and caging hand-outs from students willing to share lunch.

″The geese are home free if they stay down at that end of the lake,″ said Public Works Director John W. Meany, noting that environmental police were keeping hunters away from the populated areas.

The southern end of the mile-long lake fronts on the central Massachusetts city’s business district and it is ringed by the Heywood Memorial Hospital, a cemetery and the municipal golf course.

Campus police were patrolling the grounds of the community college, but reported finding no trespassing hunters.

State law prohibits the discharge of firearms within 500 feet of a dwelling.

″I only heard two or three shots,″ Meany said.

He opened the lake to sportsmen for the state’s two-week waterfowl season at the urging of city Health Agent Joseph N. Ares because of fears the goose droppings could contaminate one of the main sources of drinking water in this city of nearly 18,000 residents.

″We don’t have a health problem now, but we are trying to prevent one,″ Ares said.

Although state Fish and Wildlife officials and the MSPCA have suggested the problem may resolve itself with the onset of cold weather and the migration of the geese, Meany said about 60 of the birds were on the lake on Saturday.

Early last month the flock had numbered about 100.

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