Russ Hefty grabbed the 3-pound orange predator by its foam scruff, checked to make sure there was juice and that its paws were waxed, then sent it wide-eyed and whining into the wilds of Vilas Park.

Its job? To stalk, to haze, to harass.

Its quarry? The Canada goose, the bane of every open space in Madison, the deliverer of slip to soccer fields, the hogging, honking despoiler of lake-edge picnic grounds, and the biggest flying poop machine in local airspace.

The stalker is the “GoosInator,” a $2,800 DayGlo orange drone of foam, plywood and plastic sent out to make a lasting impression on the city parks’ goose population.

“The goal is to make life uncomfortable for geese, who see it as a predator,” said Hefty, the city’s conservation supervisor who test-goosed the remote-control predator last fall and then recommended its purchase.

The GoosInator — the orange color, the large painted eye and cartoonish big, pointy, toothy snarl are details guided by university studies, the inventors say — is the newest of several tools the Parks Division is using to “manage” the geese, a perennial problem.

Other efforts include eliminating feeding of the waterfowl by people, buzz-cutting potential habitat, using chemical repellents on the grass, pestering them by other means, oiling their eggs to reduce reproduction, and killing and eating them (also known as “humane removal”).

Hefty seemed pleased with the propeller-powered GoosInator during a run last week at Vilas Park, next to the lagoon where about a dozen Canada geese were nipping at the soggy bluegrass. The robot is pushed by an electric motor, about the size of the motor in a ceiling fan but much noisier (90 decibels). Hefty controls the back-and-forth with a pistol that works as a remote control. So the unit growls and whines and moves easily over short grass on a pair of waxed gliders. It looks like a pontoon plane that just can’t take off. It is not sneaking up on anything, but it sure irritates the geese, which honk and then wing it out of the area. Two geese come back and settle in the lagoon, thinking the predator can’t swim.

It can’t, but it can do the next best thing: It can zoom along on the surface, a skill that finally chases the two offended geese and also seemed to baffle but not ruffle a pair of eavesdropping sandhill cranes.

“It’s important to get out here now while they are hanging around and establishing a grazing habitat and not nesting here,” said Hefty. Interrupting that a couple of times should be enough to keep them away.

The goal, he said, is to “have parks that are usable, where people can put down a blanket without getting goose goo everywhere.”

That was Randy Claussen’s business idea in a nutshell. The Denver man, with his brother, David, and brother-in-law, Mike Ratcliff, sold their first GoosInator in February 2012. Parks and golf courses are so far the big customers.

“We needed a ground craft that imitated a predator, something they would be scared of, something they couldn’t get away from that would work on grass and on water, too,” he said.

There are limitations, said Claussen. Its battery stays charged for 15 minutes and is expensive, and GoosInator is too light to be effective in high winds. Wheels can be added, but it is most effective in short grass and not effective in longer grass.

The orange robot inspired Hefty. He cut a profile of a fox out of plywood, painted it orange and attached it to the running board of a parks truck. Unfortunately, the parks’ open spaces these soggy days are suitable only for geese and GoosInator. Hefty’s truck, with its “Russinator,” would wreck the fields.

The robot, however, is light on its pontoons, doesn’t need to be fed and, unlike a goose, doesn’t leave any trace of its presence.

Senior Reporter for the Wisconsin State Journal.

You might also like

(14) comments

Chanzell
Chanzell

As an avid Radio Controlled pilot, I am disturbed to see that the Government spent $2800 on something that any hobbyist could have built for less than $400!

factcheck
factcheck

This is more than a bit crazy. For hundreds of years Geese have been in our Wisconsin Lakes without the massive degradation seen in our local lakes. So what is the biggest pollution hazard: People: McMansions around Lake Mendota, farm NPK runoff, grass lawns and all the unnecessary waste: Gas Driven Mowers, Fertilizers, constant grass cuttings etc (http://www.earthyreport.com/site/is-your-lawn-bad-for-the-environment/) . You know what is over populated and needs some serious cut-back: HUMANS !

Retoother
Retoother

"Eradication does not work - you have to change the habitat."

Yes because the keep breeding even after they are dead. ...............rolls eyes.

It's called over population..........Down south they can take up to 5 per day and they just keep on coming.

TS78
TS78

"Down south they can take up to 5 per day and they just keep on coming."

Agree, killing doesn't work. Changing their behavior is much more viable when they're alive.

Retoother
Retoother

No the problem is the northern states and Canada not letting hunters up here take enough birds.

You're only going to eat so many. Spread it around.

shonasgirl
shonasgirl

It is ridiculous to let the geese fowl our waters and surroundings while people are going hungry. Let the sportsmen shoot them and give them to the food pantries.

Rosalie
Rosalie

Eradication does not work - you have to change the habitat.

Some golf courses use border collies or other dogs to keep the geese off.

nufsenuf
nufsenuf

This is another non-solution. Madison erroneously thinks that all you have to do is to relocate the problems to another location and all is well. It has not worked with the homeless, minority criminal element and other undesirables and it won't solve the goose problem. Eradication is the only solution to the goose problem. As for the others hmmmm........... ?

pikerover
pikerover

Nuf ...Does the "majority" criminal element go in the "other undesirables" or are they OK to have around?

Rosalie
Rosalie

Shooting them does not solve the problem. More will come They are drawn to watery habitats surrounded y open areas where they can watch for predators. As mentioned above, farmers' fields also supply them with food.

The Native Americans didn't have that problem but then they also don't think the earth and every thing on it is made exclusively for humans - an antediluvian attitude brought over from Europe ("our parks, our lakes, our fields").

spooky tooth
spooky tooth

Get a couple for the city golf courses.

lloll
lloll

@deernut.

One of the main reasons goose populations are exploding is because they have easier access to food. So when you chase geese out of one area you cause the concentration of them to increase in another. That means less food to go around = less geese. Areas that have high human goose interaction also tend to have easy food sources.

Additionally the what anator isn't meant to decrease population. But is instead a training tool to keep geese away from areas that have high human usage.

deernut00
deernut00

Interesting, but does nothing to solve the goose problem. They just keep multiplying and the only apparent solution is to shoot many, many of them before their numbers explode even more. The old days when the Horicon Marsh was created was way too successful, and the federal protection that forbid hunters in WI to take more than one goose (had to favor the IL senators who wanted IL hunters to have as many as they could shoot) just let the population "explode" so now they are a nuisance. Funny that the Goosinator is thought of as a solution to this problem. Anyone wonder just where the goose goes that is chased away? Either they circle around and land next to the Goosinator, or they move to another lake and land where there is no Goosinator. Fun and games for the wildlife wannabe managers. Pretty pathetic, I'd say. The goose all the while crowd our parks, our lakes, our fields, and eat the farmer out of house and home.

lloll
lloll

I want that job

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Exchange ideas and opinions on posted articles. Don't promote products or services, impersonate other site users, register multiple accounts, threaten or harass others, post vulgar, abusive, obscene or sexually oriented language. Don't post content that defames or degrades anyone. Don't repost copyrighted material; link to it. In other words, stick to the topic and play nice. Report abuses by clicking the button. Users who break the rules will be banned from commenting. We no longer issue warnings. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.