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August 30, 2012

Faces of the Animal Protection Movement, Page 2: Rebecca Stritt Goes All Out for Geese

Wisconsin woman led campaign to humanely control goose population

All Animals magazine, September/October 2012

  • Rebecca Stritt                       Sarah Nader/For The HSUS

by Arna Cohen

Delavan, Wisconsin

Started a birth control program for geese at a local lake

Advice for advocates: “Reach out to local organizations that can help you spread the word. In addition to using Facebook, I contacted an animal shelter and a wildlife veterinary clinic that had large databases of animal people. Nobody knew the goose roundup was happening.”

The Canada geese stood accused of multiple crimes: pooping in the grass, fouling the beach, and harassing visitors to the lakeside municipal park in Delavan, Wis. The verdict: guilty as charged. The town board’s sentence: roundup and elimination, to be conducted for $4,000 by the USDA’s Wildlife Services killing program.

Rebecca Stritt heard about the proposal at a May 2010 board meeting of the Lakeland Animal Welfare Society. “It sounded like it was a done deal. … I thought, ‘The geese aren’t dead yet; this isn’t a done deal.’ ” With just weeks to stop the slaughter, Stritt quickly started her own roundup of animal advocates in protest.

A Facebook page and local media reports generated calls, letters, and emails from around the world to the town board. Stritt also proposed humane alternatives: 105 volunteers would remove goose waste and trash from the park three times a day through Labor Day, set up an addling program (oiling eggs to prevent hatching), and raise money to pay for nonlethal deterrents. “I’ve never seen such a comprehensive and wonderful proposal by volunteers,” says Lynsey White Dasher, an HSUS urban wildlife specialist Stritt approached for assistance.

White Dasher spoke with the board chairwoman several times, explaining that killing would just make room for more birds. But Stritt’s group was able to win over only one board member, and the roundup went forward.

And sure enough, the following spring, other geese took their place. Nothing had changed. Except that the chairwoman was defeated in her reelection bid by the councilman who had stuck up for the geese. Heavy campaigning by some members of Stritt’s group carried him to a three-vote victory, and he’s adamant that roundups will not take place while he’s in office.

In spring 2011, HSUS experts traveled to Delavan to train Stritt and other volunteers in addling. Today the goose population has stabilized. The town board hasn’t accepted Stritt’s offer to clean the park or install deterrents, but for now the addling seems to be enough.

"Often when we lose a battle, our local advocates become defeated and withdrawn from the issue. But Rebecca’s persistence, knowledge of the issue, and, most importantly, her upbeat attitude were instrumental in establishing a humane program for Canada geese. With more advocates like her, we could accomplish so much!"  — HSUS Urban Wildlife Specialist Lynsey White Dasher

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