Kathy Antoniotti | Beacon Journal staff writer

By Kathy Antoniotti

Beacon Journal staff writer

JACKSON TWP.: Got geese?

Meet Border Patrol Agent Vic, a specially trained border collie guaranteed to eliminate your pesky, web-footed problem without ever showing a fang.

That’s a distinction claimed by Denny and Kathy Ray, owners of Pond Wiser, an aquatic and lawn care business that employs a dog for Canada goose management on and around its clients’ lakes and ponds. It’s the only company in Stark County that offers the service, Denny Ray said.

“Geese droppings are not only a problem on land,” said Ray, of Jackson Township. “They produce nitrogen that fertilizes algae and weeds” that also plagues pond owners.

The company specializes in the installation and maintenance of water gardens, lakes and ponds. The business recently expanded into goose control when Ray, who is licensed and certified through the Ohio Department of Agriculture, realized the serious problems the waterfowl are causing his customers.

It is estimated that a Canada goose leaves as much as 3 pounds of fecal matter a day around the water sites they inhabit.

The birds are so adaptable and tolerant to Ohio environs, they will establish nesting grounds on any pond, whether it’s in a backyard, golf course or public park.

“One of our clients has a driveway that winds around a lake. The property near the lake got so bad it was like a Slip’N Slide,” Ray said.

The couple began researching ways to humanely get rid of the vagrants when their numbers began increasing in the Stark County area several years ago.

In February, the couple purchased the highly trained, 2-year-old border collie from a Virginia breeder of sheep-herding dogs. Vic, who was considered too submissive to subdue ornery herds of sheep, has a perfect temperament for controlling the birds, said Barbara Ray, (no relation) owner of Big Bend Farm in Millboro, Va., who sold the dog to the couple.

Denny Ray and Vic patrol each of their clients’ properties twice each day until the gaggles of geese are gone.

The collie earned his stripes about two months ago, shortly after going to work on a Jackson Township property that includes an 8-acre lake. The pond was home to as many as 150 geese when Vic rode into town in Ray’s pickup truck.

On Wednesday, only a handful of geese were brave enough to venture onto the lake as Vic patrolled. Most had decided dealing with the dog is more trouble than it’s worth and had moved to less hostile territory. There has been no evidence of any nesting sites on the property this spring, either, Ray said.

“[Border collies] resemble a coyote or a wolf, and that is the geese’s biggest predator. If they nest, coyotes will eat the eggs. Just having Vic around discourages them,” Ray said.

The border collie breed is considered very intelligent and easily trainable, but responds best to the voice of only one master.

“If [Kathy] gives him a command, he looks at me as if he’s saying, ‘Am I supposed to do that?’?” Ray said.

When he is working, Vic doesn’t move a muscle unless he receives a command from Ray, nor does he show any aggression to the geese, Kathy Ray said.

“PETA and the Humane Society highly support the use of border collies. They are the only dogs that have been proven not to hurt the geese,” she said.

The company has employed other methods of goose management in the past, such as using strobe lighting as a deterrent and running snare lines around the lake, both with limited success, Denny Ray said.

Geese are becoming year-round residents in Ohio and no longer fear people, making them aggressive during nesting season. But they are federally protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 and their management is strictly regulated.

After evaluating the size of a property and the number of birds in residence, Ray offers customized geese management packages that are specific to the client’s needs.

Pond Wiser is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week and can be reached at 330-685-3637.

Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or kantoniotti@thebeaconjournal.com.