Written by john owens, firstname.lastname@example.org Friday, 14 June 2013 00:00
“We work in the shadows,” Nick Maglaras said, leading me to his unmarked black pickup truck.
A 58-year-old in a gray T-shirt free of any logos or markings, Maglaras unlocked the truck’s cap, with its black-tinted windows. Inside, I saw a few galvanized-wire cage traps and a large, rectangular wooden box.
“This is a carbon dioxide cylinder,” he said, pointing to a well-worn tank. “The regulator is over here.”
The instructions are quite simple: Cover the box, turn on the CO2, and within five minutes it’s over.
“To them, it’s like they’re going to sleep,” he said.
Some would call Maglaras a ruthless hit man. Others, a hero. In any case, he has a license to kill, and he’s the guy you call when you have a goose problem that can’t be fixed any other way.
Killing geese was something most of us never knew about until recently, when the Town of North Hempstead explored that option. Since then, the town has backed off. But that gives only some birds a reprieve. Talking with Maglaras, I was shocked to learn that large-scale goose-kills have been taking place in Nassau County for years. In fact, kills could be underway right now without anyone knowing, except for a small circle of property owners, government officials and contractors, such as Maglaras.
“The hunters hate me, regular people hate me, and animal activists hate me,” he said. “The only one who likes me is the person who hires us.”
Maglaras’ company, Goose Control, Inc. (www.goosecontrolinc.com) has been around for more than decade, and he prides himself on getting rid of geese for good when nothing else can. For obvious reasons, like other goose specialists, he keeps a low profile.
“What’s your address?” I ask.
“A post office box” he answers.
But when a client needs some geese taken out, they find him.
“Believe me, the property owners know we’re here,” he said.
The problem he solves is Canadian geese that aren’t migratory, but pretty much full-time residents of Nassau County. Not only do they cover our parks with poop, but also, like salmon with wings, they return year after year to the same spot near where they were born. In almost all cases, it’s a piece of land adjoining a body of water. During the molting season while new feathers grow in, the birds can’t fly. They spend the day on land, and, for security, sleep in the water. This no-fly period generally is between mid June and mid July, and it’s when Maglaras performs the majority of his work.
For a “roundup,” he and his team arrive at a goose-plagued spot and set up fences in a V shape. The flightless birds are then gently directed to the opening in the V. As they move to the end, the geese are picked up and put into cages or boxes. Later, they are given a dose of CO and their bodies are incinerated.
Don’t get the idea that Maglaras is some outlaw goose exterminator. Far from it. He can’t touch a feather without the blessing of the federal government.
“The property owner has to get the permit,” Maglaras said as a prelude to the details of the permitting process. The property owner has to fill out forms showing significant health or economic issues with the geese, as well as prove that non-lethal control methods haven’t worked. But even before those forms can be filed, another federal agency has to come to the scene and evaluate the situation.
Maglaras agrees that goose-chasing border collies have their place. So does the practice of oiling the birds’ eggs so they don’t hatch. But neither reduces the overall goose population nor moves them out of a spot that is “imprinted” in the birds salmon-style.
That’s when a property owner calls.
Who are these “property owners”? Maglaras declined to identify any private clients, though he eagerly rattled off state parks and school districts that have enlisted him over the years.
What steams Maglaras is that so many local officials refuse to take serious action against the birds, and instead, just keep shooing them from one spot to another.
“They don’t want the controversy. They don’t want the complaints,” he said of conducting a lethal roundup. “They have been moving the problem around for 10 years. They knew 10 years ago what had to be done.”
As a result, the goose population doesn’t decline, taxpayers fund poop cleanup year after year, and property owners who end up hosting the geese shooed from parks must bear the expense of dealing with them. That, Maglaras said, amounts to a “goose tax” on property owners.
At the same time, he said, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services division has gotten into the goose-execution business, too, creating a government-subsidized competitor that gets jobs without even a bidding process.
“It’s taxpayer-funded competition,” Maglaras said angrily. “And they’re funding it with my taxes.”
It’s no surprise that, like so much else, the world of goose-control is full of politics, intrigue and double-dealing officials.
But what about the geese and the goose poop? What can be done?
“The goose population in Nassau County will not gone down without a roundup,” Maglaras said firmly.
How many geese would that be?
“It’s in the thousands.”
“Look,” he continued, obviously not wanting to appear heartless. “I think a pair of geese with a few goslings on a pond is a beautiful thing. But not when there’s 100 pair of geese.”