Honk if you love the EOB! Canada geese move house

York’s Security Services team took on a different role on Tuesday, when they switched from security detail to goose duty. In a  yearly ritual, the intrepid security officers donned their "duck" boots and gently herded a family of Canada geese from the north courtyard of the East Office Building (EOB) on York’s Keele campus, through the office building, to a sheltered pond located in the Boyer Woodlot.

Above: Using their jackets, York Security Services personnel herd the family of Canada geese out of the courtyard of the East Office Building

"We’ve been doing this for the past three years," chuckled Dragan Spasojevic (right), manager of security operations for York’s Campus Services & Business Operations. "And each year the adults return because the area offers a quiet nursery for their goslings."

In spite of the safety of the courtyard, the area is not immune from predators. Spasojevic said that one year a raccoon got into the enclosed area and destroyed the young geese. "Staff in EOB were devastated," said Spasojevic. "While the courtyard is sheltered, it also offers no means of escape for the young geese who can’t fly. Now, when they get to a certain size, we come over and herd them to the pond."

While it sounds simple, anyone who has been chased by a Canada goose knows they can deliver a fierce nip. Over the years, Spasojevic says that security personnel have learned the right technique to move the birds without frightening them. "The young are quite tame, the adults get a bit nervous, but it seems that every year, once they understand what is happening, they are quite calm. They even know the way through the office building to the pond," he said with a grin.

Left: "Do we have them all?" The parents patiently wait for the EOB doors to open.

Turning their long jackets so that the black side faced out, security staff gently lined up, holding their jackets out as a long shield. Then, walking forward very slowly, they approached the family of geese. With a lot of hissing and gesturing, the adult geese finally got the idea and moved toward the door with their goslings in tow.

As the only way out of the courtyard is through the building, staff in the EOB had prepared in advance for their feathered guests by lining a route with water cooler bottles and newspapers (needed to catch the stray "green cigar"). EOB staff then stood behind the bottle barricade, many quietly snapping photographs and videos, as the family of geese climbed up and over the step into the building and regally marched through the offices to the exit doors. Both parents were relaxed by this point, although a few of the goslings needed a hand up by security staff to make the step. One youngster decided the office offered an interesting diversion and got confused by the window. He was quickly called back into tow by his mother.

Right: On the lam in the EOB parking lot

On exiting the building, security staff resumed their herding stance and gently moved the family through the parking lot, up the hill and along to the Boyer Woodlot pond. "The geese can’t really figure out the jackets and it puzzles them," said Spasojevic. "They can’t decide whether they need to defend their young but because we move them gently, they soon get used to the idea.

"The pond is sheltered by the woodlot and provides a better and safer home for the goslings," said Spasojevic. "Once the youngsters are a little bigger, the parents will move them to the Stong Pond."

Arriving at the pond, the family was greeted by another family of Canada geese and, after a few honks, the goslings jumped into the pond and swam toward the new family. Both sets of parents, with their apparently unique honks, gently separated the milling youngsters, who seemed delighted to meet their new pond mates.

Left: Home at last

In what could best be described as "poultry in motion", the six goslings and two adults found a new home in the Boyer Woodlot pond.

To view a video of the event, go to: www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Syfibo7xKk .

Story by Jenny Pitt-Clark, YFile editor.