Muncie Central teams battle geese flocks on fields
MUNCIE, Ind. (AP) — As the Muncie Central high school athletic teams began preparations for the upcoming season, they were greeted by a familiar opponent. Not the Tigers from Yorktown, or the Eagles from Delta.
No, this is a foe that has caused headaches for Bearcat coaches and players for years and years: The geese from Canada.
Large numbers of Canada geese have created a crappy situation at Central — pun intended.
Due to the abundant droppings from the geese, the Central athletic staff has had to work extra to make sure the athletes have suitable practice conditions. As Central athletic director Tom Lyon so fittingly described it on Twitter, it’s all about “OPERATION GOOSE POOP!”
According to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Canada goose population in Indiana has grown substantially over the last two decades and is up to about 130,000, and the number might be even higher than that. Locally, the geese love Central.
Central’s proximity to the river has always made the school a desirable hangout. When The Star Press in 2015 talked to Southside track athletes about the consolidation and the differences of being at Central, one answered, “Honestly, all the (goose) poop.”
“It’s been an issue for a long time,” Lyon said, “but I’ll tell you this: There are a whole lot more geese now than when I was in high school.”
In a world with an unlimited budget, Central could just throw a bunch of money at the problem. There is a spray for the grass that deters the geese, but it must be resprayed every time the grass is cut, every time it rains and every time the sprinkler is on (which is every night). The solution is too expensive, Lyon says.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources suggests using several techniques in combination to deter geese. So, the athletics staff is getting creative. If you go by the practice football field, you’ll see a row of plastic stakes sticking out of the ground with string and pie tins on the end of them. They are strategically placed between the field and the levy. Kristi Ellis, who is Lyon’s secretary, suggested it because the movement of the tins blowing in the wind and the shininess temporarily frightens the geese.
Sounds crazy, right? Well, it worked. At least for a little while.
“It was hilarious for the first two or three days,” Lyon said. “The geese would come walking up over the levy, they would look at those things and stop, turn around and go back to the river. The fourth day, there are like 4,000 geese on the practice field. So, I figured they either flew in or were no longer afraid of the tins.”
On one morning, Lyon and football coach Scott Pethtel spent several hours driving a cart — with a machine on the back to scoop up poop — back and forth over the practice football field. When they were done, they emptied the crates over the levy.
“It’s not a fun job,” Pethtel said with a laugh.
With the custodial staff busy getting all of the school buildings ready for the first day, Lyon and the coaches have had to do things that aren’t exactly in their job description, but necessary.
Shea Hill, who is beginning his 10th season as Central boys soccer coach, said this year is actually the least amount of goose poop on the practice soccer field. He said that the lack of rain has meant the field has been dry, and that’s unappealing to the geese. The practice football field and main soccer field get watered regularly, so the geese seem to prefer to congregate there instead.
“It’s kind of a legendary problem we’ve had for a while,” Hill said. “But they are pretty bad this year. It’s ironic that as bad as they are this year, it’s been one of those years where it hasn’t actually bothered me that much because our field is so dry.”
When the soccer team conditions during the summer, they have a routine.
“First thing I tell the guys is, ‘All right, go get the geese to the river.’ It’s just a run they know,” Hill said. “And you can’t stop until they are in the river, because if you stop at the top of the levy, they’re going to turn back around and walk back down.”
In the last decade, Hill has seen other coaches use a variety of tactics to keep the field clear of goose poop. He thinks when John Hochstetler was Central’s football coach, they had cardboard cutouts of foxes to scare off the geese. The soccer team has put cardboard cutouts of owls on the goal posts. Hill knows of coaches who have brought their dog by the field at night to chase them off, or coaches who would drive a cart across the field to redirect the geese back to the river.
That’s what Lyon is going to do for now — begin each morning by driving a cart by the fields to make sure the geese aren’t getting too comfortable. As school gets going and there are more people around, like PE classes outside during the day, he thinks it won’t be as much of an issue.
“I always figured it was my job to make sure the games go on,” Lyon said. “Whatever it takes, you’ve got to do. I think it’s just one of those situations where you’ve got to do what you got to do.”
Source: The Star Press
Information from: The Star Press, http://www.thestarpress.com