Gentle Persuasion

Lake Murray tests strobe lights to drive away geese

Cooking up a scheme to scare away Lake Murray geese

tflach@thestate.comJanuary 6, 2013 

— The lights flash unpredictably at night in ways that bother the birds but not people, according to Cincinnati-based Away with Geese, one of several companies that makes the lights.

Manager Tammy Wright has a list of chores that need to be tackled before opening Lake Murray Marina & Yacht Club in Ballentine for the day.

Cleaning the fuel dock of geese droppings is one of the least pleasant.

But a new tool that helps shoo away geese – a flashing amber light similar to a strobe – is making that job easier.

“It’s reduced our problem by a large amount,” Wright said.

Geese are part of life at Lake Murray but their proliferate droppings “are a real nuisance,” said Roy Parker of Lexington, a leader of the Lake Murray Association.

The lights being tested are gentle persuasion, disrupting the birds’ nocturnal nesting and sleep so they move elsewhere. The lights flash unpredictably at night in ways that bother the birds but not people, according to Cincinnati-based Away with Geese, one of several companies that makes the lights.

Waterfront neighborhood leaders are starting to check out the equipment, which the company says also can be used at golf courses, parks, stores and other sites with ponds and spots where geese gather.

Golfers at the Timberlake course south of Chapin are searching for a solution to the damage geese long have caused on a pair of lakeside holes.

“We’re looking at any option we can use,” club president Julie Nelson said.

State natural resources officials suggest harassing geese to disperse them without endorsing products claiming to do that.

Amber is the color that seems to work best among hues tested, said Tom Wells, president of Away with Geese.

The color also avoids confusion for boaters. Green, red and white are navigation lights for navigation after dark, while blue is the color for vehicles responding to collisions and other emergencies.

Some Midlands animal rights advocates agree the lights are humane.

But they say residents around the 650-mile shoreline should co-exist with critters instead of driving them away.

“While this is a better option than other alternatives, people should accept wildlife and learn to live with it,” Deloris Mungo of the Irmo area said.

The solar-powered lights are pricey, costing $250 and more depending on their design for land or water locations.

But they may be the salvation for those on the 47,500-acre lake plagued by geese.

Others suggest it’s better to simply stop feeding them.

“As long as they get a free handout, they’ll stay,” state waterfowl biologist Dean Harrigal said.

No one regularly counts geese that reside on the lake, but state officials estimate it varies between 400 and 1,000. That total periodically multiplies since the lake is a stopover during waterfowl migration in spring and fall. Regardless of the number, geese are amusement for some people and pests for others.

“Some people like to have the birds and that’s all right if they accept the consequences,” said Bill Melven, manager of the Lexington County Soil and Water Conservation District. “For others, getting goop on your shoes and not being able to lay a blanket on your lawn to enjoy the lake is a problem.”

Reach Flach at (803) 771-8483.

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