Jessamine County

Of geese and graves: Cemetery plot owners tired of a fowl mess

Cemetery geese

Canada geese walk among the graves at Blue Grass Memorial Gardens in Jessamine County.
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Canada geese walk among the graves at Blue Grass Memorial Gardens in Jessamine County.

Geese and their droppings are running afoul of people who have loved ones buried in a Jessamine County cemetery.

The general manager of Blue Grass Memorial Gardens off U.S. 68 near the Fayette County line said she is trying to “humanely discourage” the Canada geese from staying there.

“Please do not feed the waterfowl” signs went up this week near the cemetery’s ponds, said general manager Shannon Speicher.

But Nicholasville residents John V. Carpenter, 76, and his brother-in-law Shirley Smith, 74, say it will take more than signs to solve the problem.

“That isn’t going to do away with this,” Smith said.

Carpenter’s wife, Betty, and Smith’s wife, Henrietta, are buried at the cemetery. The two women were sisters.

Both men say goose droppings are a nuisance that makes it difficult to walk to the graves.

“When I bought my lots 10 or 12 years ago, there weren’t any geese,” Carpenter sad. “You’ve got to put garbage bags over your feet or change into an old pair of shoes to get to the grave and back. I won’t even let my grandkids go up there because it’s so nasty.”

Both men say they’ve encountered women who feed cracked corn or bread to the numerous geese. The men say that only encourages the geese to remain.

“I just feel like the cemetery should have some responsibility to the owners of the graves,” Carpenter said.

Speicher said Blue Grass Memorial Gardens is attempting to reach a solution that is satisfactory “to the people who enjoy the waterfowl and to the people who don’t.”

The cemetery is “undertaking a new initiative to humanely discourage geese from making Blue Grass their home,” she said.

Asked if other measures might be taken in addition to the signs, Speicher said she “is not at liberty to discuss” that.

“Any kind of property, golf course or public park that has a water aspect is going to have waterfowl,” Speicher said.

Canada geese are federally protected. Kentucky’s estimated 2016 population was more than 44,000, said Mark Marraccini, spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

“I’ve gotten some calls in the past from people wanting to know, ‘How can I get some geese on my pond?’ ” Marraccini said. “I tell them, ‘It’s neat when there are two there but it’s not neat when there are 20.’ ”

Manicured lawns near water have become a prime habitat for geese in urban areas. The birds have a ready supply of grass to eat but no predators to control their numbers.

Some cemeteries have enlisted the use of trained border collies with handlers that stalk but do not harm the geese. The tactic apparently unnerves the birds because they perceive the dog as a predator, and they move on.

The U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have been contacted for their recommendations on what to do with the geese at Blue Grass, Speicher said.

The cemetery is one of 10 properties owned in Kentucky by Service Corporation International, a chain that owns cemeteries and funeral homes across the country. Blue Grass, which operates under the Dignity Memorial brand, is the only Central Kentucky property owned by Service Corp.; the others are in the Louisville area.

The cemetery, incorporated in the 1950s, has 13,000 graves on 50 acres. Speicher said the people who work there live locally “so we have a vested interest in making it a wonderful place to visit.”

Smith said he will be watching to see what other measures the cemetery takes to reduce the geese nuisance.

“I’m not going to pitch in the towel now,” he said. “I’m in for the long run. I’m not going to give up.”