ITHACA, NY – While Ithaca considers welcoming one type of fowl into the city, it’s considering an ordinance aimed at controlling another.

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Earlier this month, the Planning and Economic Development Committee voted to circulate an ordinance that would make it a fine-able offense to feed any sort of waterfowl on city property. This includes, but is not limited to, ducks, geese and swan.

If it is passed, violating the ordinance would be punishable by a fine not to exceed $250 or 50 hours of community service.

The ordinance is primarily aimed at controlling the population of Canada geese, which has become a problem in many states throughout the US, according to a memo written by alderperson Josephine Martell.

According to the memo, feeding the birds results in a number of negative incomes, including nutritional disorders, overcrowding and unnatural behavior in the birds — namely that they no longer fear humans.

This, in turn, leads to a considerable “human-wildlife conflict,” including destruction of lawns, interference with use of public park areas and health and aesthetic concerns due to the bird’s defecation.

According to the memo, the ordinance is part of a broader three-pronged plan that includes egg oiling and hazing, both considered humane ways of lowering the geese population.

Oiling involves coating eggs in paraffin oil, which effectively prevents the embryo from developing. As opposed to other methods, oiling prevents the birds from realizing that the eggs are no longer viable — they will often lay a new clutch of eggs, otherwise.

Hazing simply involves chasing geese away from an area consistently whenever they try to return. According to Martell, there are many methods used in hazing, from border collies to drones to the wacky-waving-inflatable-arm-flailing-tube-men often seen in front of car dealerships.

In the memo, Martell says she hopes that the ordinance will go before the Common Council for approval before May, as that is the peak time for goslings to hatch. Along with the ordinance, the plan aims to have ready staff, signage and a social media campaign to help educate the public on the issue.

At the meeting, Martell noted that enforcement of the ordinance would mostly fall to City Forester Jeanne Grace’s office.

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Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.