We like to believe we are open minded and tolerant – even welcoming people.  We like to believe our neighbors are, too.  I can tell you without hesitation that intolerance and bigoted discrimination are alive and well in Wash Park.

Jorge has lived in Wash Park for years, but he still doesn’t feel comfortable, or even safe.  Sure, he had to cross the border to get here, but he followed the rules and is protected by fully legal resident status.  Jorge loves Denver and was once welcomed here by lots of nice places to live and a great area to raise a family.  Now it is crowded and his neighbors are increasingly grumpy.  He can’t afford a car, so he doesn’t contribute to the growing parking and traffic problems.  He has a tiny carbon footprint, is a committed life-long vegetarian and would surely vote democrat if he was a U.S. citizen.  He sounds like a perfect fit for Wash Park.

But he is not a fit.  He might not understand the slurs shouted in his direction, but he feels their venomous hate.  He is hated for what makes him different.  He is a little noisy, he crosses the street slowly, is lethargic and overweight and drops about two pounds of poop in the park everyday.  Jorge is a resident goose and his human neighbors want to ship him back home across the border to Canada!

The population explosion in Denver is not limited to humans.  Since 2000, the front range Canadian Goose population has grown from about 5,000 birds to 20,000.  Vicki Vargas-Madrid, Denver Parks Wildlife Program Administrator, reports there are between 500 and 700 resident geese (they no longer migrate do to fabulous year-round living conditions) in Wash Park alone.  During spring and fall migration seasons, that number can grow to 5,000 to 6,000 geese per day.  Just like the human population explosion, they are here for the grass…and the water, sunshine and lack of predators.  You see, by creating such a beautiful and human-welcoming Washington Park, we have also designed the ultimate goose habitat.

Our responsibility for the overabundance of geese goes much further than developing a nice place for them to live.  We saved them from near extinction a century ago.  In the early 1900s, efforts on the state and federal levels created the Central Flyway as part of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.  This protected airspace covers 5,000 miles from Canada to Texas passing right through Colorado.  By the late 1900s, there were 1.5 million geese on this superhighway in the sky.  Our efforts to save the Canadian Geese were wildly successful.  Be careful what you wish for.  It might come home to roost.

Or nest…and poop…where you picnic or play Frisbee or walk the dog.  Oh, dogs.  The most honored and revered residents of our neighborhood.  To the absolute horror of their human Wash Park neighborhood owners, dogs inexplicably love to eat goose poop.  They jump on it and gobble it up before their owner can jerk the leash and admonish in disgust.  Dog lovers think it is nauseatingly gross.  I think it is hilarious.  I mean, what’s the harm, anyway.  Vicki explains to me that the poop is mostly semi-digested vegetation.  While the potential for causing some unpleasantness like giardia, e-coli and listeria exists in theory, Vicki reports that in decades of studying and working with wildlife she is not aware of a single case of such illness in dogs or humans caused by contact with geese.  Besides, goose poop is gluten-free.  Wash Park diet fad followers should love that for their pooches.

While the geese do not in practical terms appear to be harmful, their sheer numbers multiplied by nearly two pounds of droppings per day does get our attention and some residents have had enough.  A group called Citizens to Restore Our Parks has collected over 500 signatures to urge the city to take more action.  Vicki reports that Denver really is already doing all we can.  They canola oil coat 2,000 goose eggs per year preventing them from hatching.  They also operate seven Goosinators – remote controlled land and water motorized predators – to scare the geese away.  But there are limited resources to oil and goosinate, and Tim McHugh from a group called Friends and Neighbors of Wash Park hopes it stays that way.  “Considering current laws concerning Canada geese, I see no way the city will be able to significantly decrease the Canada geese population without changing federal and state laws and without prohibitive costs to taxpayers. I would hate to see significant time and financial assets devoted to removing some geese when time and money should be devoted to measures which could help human beings…As far as I’m concerned, I wish we could get rid of ALL the Canada geese in Denver, which is impossible.”

As you can see, it is a balancing act.  The vastly different opinions on the matter of the goose matter probably pose the biggest challenge.  After all these years in the goose and other wildlife business, Vicki Vargas-Madrid tells me, “It is easy to manage wildlife.  It is not easy to manage the people.”

Maybe we need a fresh, new approach.  Rather than see the goose population as a problem, let’s look at it as an opportunity.  Just last year Mayor Hancock accepted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s designation of Denver as one of twenty-one cities named Urban Bird Treaty Cities for going above and beyond in, among other things, protecting our fat little floating and flying legally immigrated neighbors from the north.  Let’s embrace these geese!  Let’s not settle for one of twenty-one.  Let’s be the best damn goose city in North America!  Here are just a few ideas we, the residents of Wash Park, can explore to potentially propel us to number one!

• We can harvest goose poop from the park and sell it as vegan, gluten-free, 100% recycled and sustainable dog food.

• We can teach the geese English, make them pay taxes and pass a test about Wash Park residency that will include questions about dog sweaters and single gear bikes as well as physical aptitude on a slack line and practicing yoga in the meadow.

• We can engineer innovative techniques to burn goose poop to make the ultimate green energy.

• We can train the geese to single out and chase off the most loud and drunken of Wash Park volley-ballers.

I know that my light and whimsical view of this issue might cause me to run “afowl” of some of my neighbors.  If I have offended you, please know I am just a little bit jealous of you.


I wish my responsibilities and obligations were such that there was room towards the top of my priority list for goose overabundance activism.  But even if there was room, geese are still protected by federal legislation with little or no hope of reversal.  So, let’s remember the adage, “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em,” and try to have some fun with our honking neighbors.  If you can’t find room in your heart for a little goose love, and you feel the need to retaliate against me, your Wash Park neighborhood goose whisperer, I understand.  If you decide to vandalize my house, I know where you can find some nicely corn oiled goose eggs.