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Community grapples with geese

MEDICINE PARK  There's something foul with the waterfowl in the cobblestone community.

The fate of a gaggle of geese in the resort town has been up in the air for more than three months as a divided community has struggled with how to handle animals that have become a symbol of the community in its ongoing renaissance, but can make some uncomfortable. Janis Holmes, owner of Cobblescones Coffee and Pastry, has led the charge to protect the geese and to give them sanctuary  a proposal that has ruffled some feathers. 

"There was an issue with a trapper who was coming out," she said. "He was keeping an eye on them and we were getting worried he was going to get one."

When Holmes first opened her shop more than a year ago, she discovered the large white birds would often gather around her business. Some people were deterred from coming in, or were afraid to leave, because the geese would huddle near the entrance and were sometimes aggressive toward anyone who approached. They put their webbed feet down and would refuse to budge. She spent several weeks trying to fend them off before she made a connection with one. 

"There's one who's more like a dog than a goose," Holmes said. "He wouldn't go away and he just looks into my eyes. I thought he wanted affection. So I got up the nerve and reached out (to pet him) and he melted. We've been friends ever since. They didn't want food. He just wanted attention."

With this newfound relationship, Holmes took it upon herself to help out the geese in any way she could. She set out a large bowl of water and a pile of feed on the property behind her business on Cobblestone Row. She reached out to the community on social media with multiple posts advising anyone who sees the trapper or sees any geese being harmed to contact her immediately. While the trapper kept a look out for the ganders, Holmes took a gander at the trapper. 

Mayor Jennifer Ellis said the town never contracted a trapper for the geese and that the individual whom Holmes believed was a trapper was originally looking for an injured skunk that had been roaming the area. 

"He was out here looking for the skunk and there was one day where he was watching the geese to see what they were doing," she said. "But we never hired or contracted anyone to take care of the geese in any way."

Holmes remained in contact with the town board of trustees to find a compromise that could protect the geese and ensure the safety of town residents and visitors. She drafted a proposition and offered it to Ellis, who placed it on the agenda for the December meeting of the town board of trustees. The original draft called for the geese to be recognized as town residents, but it was amended to remove that designation. Resolution No. 171221, which was approved at the meeting by a split vote of the board, declared the non-migrating geese as "local wildlife of Medicine Park." It also prohibits the harassment of any local wildlife and designates feeding is only allowed "creekside, on the sidewalks along the creek" and that "grains and corn are encouraged, rather than bread." Holmes was pleased with the resolution.

"We've designated from the car bridge to the foot bridge, away from the side walks and public areas, as the place to feed them," Holmes said. "We encourage people not to feed them bread. It's bad for them. They love oats and especially oatmeal. They like bird seed and chopped-up lettuce. It's better for the creek and for the geese."

The Lawton Constitution

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