Wild geese may live a carefree existence in the sheltered environs of Lake Calabasas, but their presence is no picnic for area residents, who say the birds have begun to overpopulate and create a nuisance.
The situation has fueled controversy between animal-rights activists who want to protect the geese and area residents who fear that they are ruining their lake.
"There is a lot of emotion tied to this," said Bruce Richards, director of the Agoura Animal Shelter. "There is a public relations issue here that has to be handled just right--with a feather touch, if you will excuse the pun."
The population of geese has been soaring over the last few years to the point where the lake can no longer accommodate them all, most involved in the issue agree. Some of the geese have attacked people, although there apparently have been no injuries, authorities said.
"All the normal stresses that geese and birds are confronted with in the wild don't exist at this lake," Richards said. "They are very protected. They don't have to deal with coyotes over there like they do in the open spaces."
The lake is in jeopardy as a result of the overpopulation, said Don Diamond, chairman of Calabasas Lake Maintenance Committee, which represents about 225 homes around the lake.
"They leave droppings on the sidewalk and in the lake and reduce the water quality and increase algae," said Diamond, who has been meeting with Richards and others in an attempt to find a solution.
The geese at the lake are snow geese. One variety is white with black wing tips; the other has a dark body with a white head and neck.
Shelter officials want to help out with the problem, Richards said, but the facility is not equipped to care for geese.
"They thought they could bring 30 or 40 geese over here," he said. "We told them this is an animal shelter for cats and dogs--not geese."
The shelter took in four geese and found homes for them, but would be hard-pressed to find homes for more, he said, because there is no demand for them.
"We're being very careful," he said. "We don't want them to end up on somebody's dinner table."
In the meantime, there is no reason to be frightened of geese, said Calabasas Mayor Karyn Foley, who has been working to find a solution to the problem. Foley, Richards, Diamond and others will hold a meeting to discuss a solution at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
People should stand their ground when confronted by the geese, Foley said. "You can usually stare them down."
And nobody has ever been hurt in a run-in with the birds, she said.
"They have been known to nibble on tushes," she said. "But they don't have teeth, and it's just a little pinch."