Wild Goose Chase in La Grange gets birds to beat it

Spring is the busiest season and can pose hazards for Wild Goose Chase specialists managing nuisance bird problems.

“I was attacked today moving a nest in a courtyard at a hospital,” said Susan Hagberg, president of the La Grange-based company. “The nesting time is when the most human and bird conflicts come into play.”

Hagberg and her staff of biologists and trained border collies and handlers strive to discourage geese and other nuisance birds from nesting and taking up residence in clients’ properties. Teams employ a variety of methods, best suited to each site, while complying with laws protecting wildlife.

“Once the geese hatch, they have a very strong bond to the property and want to come back year after year,” she said. “During the nesting season, it’s a little different. We can’t allow the birds to be hurt. Sometimes we move the nests.”

Hagberg, who has a horticultural degree from the University of Illinois, founded the company in 1998. She worked as a landscape account manager and encountered increasing problems with Canada Geese, a protected species.

“Forty-five years ago, this area was all agricultural land, and we didn’t have all these retention ponds,” she said. “We changed the landscape by putting down grass and retention ponds, which is like a field of dreams for geese. If you build it, they will come.”

Hagberg said she read about border collies being used on the East Coast to manage geese, but nothing was available in the Chicago area. She researched the problem, focusing on what attracted the birds, such as hand-feeding practices and crab apple trees providing food and refuge.

“I had no background in training dogs,” she said. “I bought dogs that were trained and now have my own in-house dog trainer.”

If geese are allowed to nest and claim that area as their territory, they can multiply considerably. One pair of geese can breed, resulting in more than 300 birds over 10 years.

The problem with a resident population is they never leave, just staying within a hundred feet or so, she said.

Mike Fletcher, superintendent of parks for the Clarendon Hills Park District, said he has used Wild Goose Chase since 2000 to shoo the geese from Prospect Park. That was about the time Clarendon Hills Middle School opened next door, and students began using he park.

“There was a green line from carrying the goose poop into the classrooms. The sidewalk was just covered,” Fletcher said.

The school and park district considered various options, but determined Hagberg’s methods were the most successful and cost-effective. The two groups split the estimated $10,000 cost of services between April and October, Fletcher said

“We’ve gone out with trucks beeping the horns and flashing the light, and the geese won’t move,” he said. “The dogs are extremely good. The geese know they’ll be harassed, so they don’t nest here.”

Hagberg also has supplied teams of dogs and handlers to Chicago beaches to discourage the seagull population. She has expanded operations into Wisconsin, Indiana and Missouri and offers franchising opportunities.

Hagberg also branched out to offer bedbug detection five years ago, harnessing her dogs’ keen sense of smell with additional specialized training. Six teams are certified.

“We’re finding the bedbug is more of an issue in nontraditional settings,” she said. “It’s now setting up shop in offices, theaters, mass transit, planes and waiting rooms at doctor’s offices. People are bringing them in, and they’re not aware they have them.”

On the Clock

Address: 106 W. Calendar Ave., PMB 171, La Grange

Phone: (708) 448-8878Email: info@wildgoosechasers.com

Website: www.wildgoosechasers.com

Twitter: @WGCbirdcontrol

Facebook: Wild Goose Chase

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