By SAMMY FRETWELL — email@example.com
COLUMBIA — Some folks are livid that South Carolina’s top investigative agency declared war on a pair of geese nesting near its Columbia crime lab.
The State Law Enforcement Division destroyed the bird’s eggs, removed their nest and ran the geese away from the Broad River Road complex.
Animal lovers are so incensed they’re planning a memorial service for the birds. Sunday afternoon’s gathering will commemorate the loss of the geese and their eggs, organizers say.
“We are fighting against institutional cruelty,” said Keith Edwards, an organizer of this weekend’s goose memorial service.
SLED spokesman Thom Berry said he understands the concern, but the department had to take action. In protecting their nest, the geese were making it hard for people to get into the lab, Berry said.
“We had people that were chased or bitten, and a couple of instances where the male flew at them,” Berry said, noting that the geese “went after me a couple of times.”
SLED eliminated the nest April 3, less than a week after the birds arrived, Berry said. Once the nest was gone, the adult geese left the SLED property within a few days, he said.
Edwards and Deloris Mungo said SLED should have had the nest moved to another location to preserve the eggs, rather than destroying them and breaking up a family. While Canada geese are abundant in South Carolina, Mungo called SLED’s actions unnecessary for an animal she said has many good qualities.
“If people could model their lives after geese, they would be a lot better off,” said Mungo, who keeps the ashes of a dead goose she loved at her Columbia-area home. “Geese mate for life. They take care of their young. A goose will even go over and act like it is injured so a predator or person will go after them, instead of its mate or its babies.”
Mungo also questioned why SLED was so worried about the geese.
“These are birds, for God’s sake,” she said. “They don’t have any teeth. This isn’t a man with a gun coming at you or a criminal in a car trying to run you over.”
The S.C. Department of Natural Resources approved a permit April 2 for SLED to “harvest” the geese, which are otherwise protected under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
Edwards said people attending Sunday’s memorial service are asked to wear black clothing to remember the departed geese. He plans to put flowers at the former site of the nest, which was in a flower bed. Edwards, who said he is with S.C. Animal Welfare Advocacy, said his group is genuinely concerned about animals and wants SLED to know its decision was wrong.
“Why do you want to kill unborn animals?” Edwards asked “A lot of us are vegans … but we are not radicals. We are South Carolina citizens who go to work everyday. We’re just human beings.”
Canada geese, which have dark necks and multi-toned heads, are adaptable birds that can grow as tall as four feet and can weigh nearly 20 pounds. But the big birds provoke strong disagreements among animal welfare activists and some homeowners.
Since South Carolina restocked its goose population in the 1980s, Canada geese have multiplied rapidly and have taken up residence in neighborhood ponds, golf course water hazards and drainage lakes. Despite their majestic appearance, the geese can be aggressive and messy. Their droppings create a nuisance and pollute waterways, say some homeowners and golf course managers.
As a result, state and federal agencies will grant permits to destroy geese or round them up and kill the birds. But in this case, Berry said the agency chose to keep the adults alive by eliminating the nest and eggs – a tactic that he said worked.
“We did not destroy the adults,” Berry said.
The memorial service is at 4:15 p.m. Sunday at the Broad River Road department lab.