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Hunters Open Fire On Polluting Geese In City Lake, Geese Win

October 20, 1986

GARDNER, Mass. (AP) _ Hunting season opened Monday with shots ringing out on a lake that extends into downtown Gardner, where city officials are trying to oust wild Canada geese they claim are dirtying the city’s drinking water.

However, the handful of birds paddled peacefully out of shotgun range in the center of the lake, appearing as undaunted by the scattered volleys as they had been by the city’s previous efforts to evict them.

While one end of the mile-long lake extends into the heart of the city, the other end is rural.

″The geese are home free if they stay down at that end of the lake,″ said Public Works Director John W. Meany, pointing out that environmental police, Massachusetts’ version of game wardens, kept hunters away from populated areas. State law bans shooting within 500 feet of a dwelling.

The southerly end of the lake fronts on the business district and is ringed by the Heywood Memorial Hospital, a cemetery, and the municipal golf course. Campus police patrolled the grounds of Mount Wachusett Community College, across the street, but reported finding no trespassing hunters.

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

Meany 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 city’s main sources of drinking water.

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

About three carloads of hunters and a half-dozen representatives of the Massachusetts Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which had compared the hunt to ″shooting pigeons in a city park,″ were on hand when the first birds settled on the reservoir, said Daniel Lemerise, district supervisor for the environmental police.

In September the City Council adopted an ordinance and $50 fine against feeding the birds in hopes they would leave. But they just moved across the street to Mount Wachusett Community College, where they have been rooting for grubs on the lawns and getting hand-outs from students.

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 still on the lake Saturday. Early last month the flock had numbered about 100 birds.

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