University of Guelph students suspected of bullying geese

The 1979 movie, Breaking Away, is the softer, more empathetic version of Animal House, chronicling the conflict between locals or townies or cutters, and the university students who invade these towns for four years at a time.

Set in Bloomington, Indiana, I was at the time similarly attracted by cycling and the exasperated father, played by Paul Dooley, in a role he BREAKING-AWAYessentially reprised in the teen classic, Sixteen Candles as Molly Ringwald’s father.

A resident of Guelph (that’s in Canada) stepped forward a couple of weeks ago and accused four males, three wearing Ontario Agriculture College (OAC) leather jackets that said “Aggie” on the back, of bullying geese by herding them to a nearby park and threatening to throw a large, inflated, plastic ball at them.

As reported by the Guelph Mercury, because of the OAC jackets, she concluded those harassing the geese were University of Guelph students. Because of this she said the April 3 incident became a tipping point for her in how she regards the continuing saga permanent residents encounter in the area shared with university students who rent temporary housing there during the academic year.

The resident approached the putative students and was told by one that if he wanted to kill the geese, he would have picked it up and snapped its neck. Another student tossed the ball at her, saying if she was worried about the ball, she could have it, which she still does.

Dean of the OAC, Robert Gordon, says if the incident unfolded as 16candles529Laverty-Pagnan asserts, the college is disappointed.

“It’s something we don’t condone,” Gordon says. “If there is a need to extend the code of conduct to other areas, our university is always prepared to take a leadership role.”

Way to go, Aggies.

Feeding birds on Thanksgiving

I enjoyed a nice thanksgiving with my family in Wichita this year. After an enjoyable Thanksgiving lunch, complete with turkey, potatoes, green been casserole, and all the holiday staples, we decided to walk off our turkey coma by visiting the park. My parents live close to Sedgwick County Park in Wichita, KS; we use the park a lot mainly to walk the dog, but they have great running trails and nice playgrounds for when my two younger cousins come over. 

I got a free bag of cat food from school and had planned on feeding the ducks and geese that live on the ponds located within the park. We loaded my two cousins up in the car and headed to the park for some bird-feeding on turkey day. The birds at the park are quite tame and will get very close if you offer them food. Naturally, they enjoyed the cat food thoroughly. I wasn’t content to just feed them; that became boring after awhile. I decided a fun challenge would be to try to pick up one of the birds. (I’ll admit I’ve done this before at parks). I’ve worked with poultry in undergrad, so I felt that if I could pick up a turkey and carry it, surely I could pick up a goose or duck. First I coaxed the birds to eat out of my hand, and then after slowly sneaking closer to them just grabbed them up like little footballs. 

The kids thought it was hilarious, but I don’t think my parents/uncle and aunt were all that excited. Mom looked at me and said, “Those birds are filthy, I thought you knew better not to touch them!” Yes, indeed the birds are probably very dirty. They could’ve been (and probably were) infected with all sorts of bacteria and protozoa. Doug probably wouldn’t like that.  The smartest thing to do would to keep the birds’ feet out of your mouth; luckily this was not a hard task. I was also very careful not to put my hands near my mouth or on my face to contaminate myself. Ideally I would’ve used hand sanitizer after holding the birds, but unfortunately I was not thinking far enough ahead. My idea of vacation is having a good time, and most of the time that takes place in a germ-free environment. But if animals are involved (except in the case of reptiles), I tend to be a little more lax in my “germaphobe-ness.”

Just because animals carry germs doesn’t mean that we need to completely steer clear of them. However, the age of the person handling the animal must be taken into consideration. Kids under the age of 7 (or maybe even12) don’t seem to get the idea to keep your hands out of your mouth around the dogs. The bottom line (for all your petting zoo-lovers) is to be smart and wash your hands before and after handling animals.


Geese-poop-pathogens-barfing exorcism style: food safety tip #2

Old man winter is right around the corner and as usual the lovely geese of Manitoba begin their trek south to avoid the ridiculous temperatures of Winnipeg. No I’m not bitter, just a touch cool from my brisk morning rides to work on my scooter. Being jealous of the geese I was reminded this morning about food safety tip number 2. Avoid eating poop. Geese fecal matter or animal fecal matter contain pathogenic organisms such as E. coli and Salmonella. Geese really don’t care where they do their business which means it could be getting into your fruits and vegetables. Studies have also shown that Salmonella can survive in the soil for up 900 days and can also survive in fruits and vegetables (1). Washing your fruits and vegetables at this point will be ineffective.

 I remember when I was a young lad in Edmonton, Alberta performing water quality testing for the triathlon games. The athletes were to use a man-made lake for the swimming portion of the event. The lake was consistently bombarded with E.coli due to the overwhelming number of surrounding geese. If poop can get into the water, it can get into your gardens as well. Foodborne illnesses associated with fruits and vegetables have been increasing. This increase is partly due to higher consumption of such products to satisfy a healthy diet, better reporting, and changes in production practices (2). It is important to think about where your food is coming from (farm-to-fork chain) and the potential sources of contamination, one being animal droppings. As a consumer, there is very little one can accomplish in reducing bacterial loads with certain types of vegetables, one being sprouts for instance. Pathogens can exceed10 7 per gram of sprouts without affecting its appearance (3). It is for this reason that the young, old, immunocomprised, and pregnant women should avoid raw sprouts.  










1. Charpentier, Heribert Hirt. The Dark Side of the Salad: Salmonella typhimurium Overcomes the Innate Immune Response of Arabidopsis thaliana and Shows an Endopathogenic Lifestyle

2. Risk Profile on the Microbiological Contamination of Fruits and Vegetables Eaten Raw. Report of the Scientific Committee on Food (adopted on the 24th of April 2002). European Commission, Health and Consumer Protection Directorate- General.

3. Taormina PJ, Beuchat LR, Slusker R. 1999. Infections associated with eating seed sprouts: An international concern. Emerg Infect Dis; 5: 629-634.


Geese poop a lot

The parents of my high school girlfriend had a cottage in Barry’s Bay, Ontario. Lovely place, including memories of dive-bombing geese and the darkest night skies ever.

Nearby Pembroke, Ontario, also has a problem with geese – specifically their poop — like many other communities.

The Daily Observer reports that Pembroke’s Riverside Beach was closed last month due to high E. coli levels, primarily from geese poop.

Deputy Mayor Les Scott said,

"This matter has gotten to the point where this animal is contributing negatively to the health and safety of our citizens.”

What annoys him is if the city is found to be the cause of elevated E. coli, the province would be on them in a minute. When it is geese, nothing happens.