Susan Kinney was standing alongside her 9-year-old, tail-wagging co-worker Thursday morning in the thick grasses of the Beloit River Bend Area. There wasn’t a bird in sight.
The Geese Police had done their job.
Kinney is president of the Whitewater-based Geese Police Inc., a company that uses trained border collies to rapidly reduce pesky goose populations for Wisconsin municipalities from Madison to Milwaukee and everywhere in between.
After years of Beloit’s noisy, messy bird population going unchecked, Parks & Leisure Services Director Brian Ramsey decided it was time to call the authorities.
“When you have a huge abundance of those geese, it becomes a big distraction to the park,” Ramsey said. “It was beyond our control.”
So, beginning in early March, Kinney and her canine colleagues began making seven-day-a-week trips to Beloit’s favorite bird hangouts — the River Bend, Krueger-Haskell Golf Course and Riverside Park, among other places. Based on Thursday morning’s route — a Beloit Daily News reporter joined Kinney for the goose-wrangling venture — the Geese Police are already making an impact. The River Bend was vacant and Riverside Park was nearly empty.
“I’ve seen a big decline in the geese population in our parks,” Ramsey said during a phone interview earlier in the week.
Thursday, Kinney was joined by Gael, a friendly, well-trained dog who perked up as the Geese Police truck neared Riverside Park’s lagoon.
“She knows where we are,” Kinney said.
Border collies make good goose herders because of their work ethic, wolf-like stalking skills and intense eye contact that moves geese to “believe their life is in imminent danger,” according to Geese Police literature.
“What we’re doing is introducing a predator to the property,” Kinney said. “She stalks the geese like a fox or coyote.”
Fox-like, indeed. After being released from the Geese Police vehicle, Gael got low to the ground and began sniffing, following scents left and right. There weren’t many of the brown, beaked animals around, but those present took off flying in a flash.
Gael gave off a look of satisfaction.
Kinney purchased a Geese Police franchise in 2002 after taking a trip to the company’s New Jersey-based headquarters. She landed her first job in the Milwaukee suburb of Franklin at a country club and business has grown quickly since then, with municipalities all over southeastern Wisconsin signing on.
Kinney’s Geese Police is a family affair, with husband Michael and their son Trevlyn operating the company’s two other trucks.
It’s tough work and the birds can be nasty at times, Kinney said, but “I’m out all day, every day with my dog. I love it.”