A Life

A Life, Mixed Media Charcoal and Ink, 15″ x 11″

The town I live next to, Foster City, California, is failing to live in harmony with their local Canada Geese population. I have been going to the City Council meetings and following their efforts to remedy the problem. My piece, A Life, is a charcoal and ink drawing I did from a photo I took of one of the geese. Unfortunately, the City Council has decided to kill one hundred geese and is awaiting their last permit to use “spinal dislocation,” as a method to kill them. It is my observation that there are only a few key areas of Foster City where this is a problem–they are unfortunately the areas where people congregate in the parks. Most of Foster City is spotless.

I took photos of a few of the Geese and walked around Foster City surveying the situation, thinking about it a lot, and finally am putting my fingers to the keys to discuss this.

Several years ago I saw the exhibit, Nature’s NationAmerican Art and Environment at The Crystal Bridges Museum in Arkansas. One photograph has stayed with me and haunted me since I saw it. It was taken in 1892 by an unidentified photographer, Men Standing with Pile of Buffalo Skulls, Michigan Carbon Works. It is a mountain of thousands of Buffalo skulls with a man standing at the top of them. It was a dark time in our history. One I am deeply ashamed of for this country.

Unidentified Photographer, Men standing with a pile of buffalo skulls, Michigan Carbon Works

We, as a species, seem to have this habit of almost killing a species to extinction, then doing all we can to bring it back. And, in the process, greatly disrupting the ecosystem. This happened with the Canada Geese, too. Unregulated hunting almost drove the geese to extinction in the early 20th Century in their native habitat — southwest Ontario and the southern prairies of the United States. Efforts were made by wildlife officials and aviculturists to breed them and introduce them to new areas. It is a problem wholly of our own making. There are so many examples of us doing this to other creatures. The last Passenger Pigeon hunted out of existence, Martha, died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1902. And with her loss, the whole species was lost.

Martha, the last Passenger Pigeon died at the Cincinnati Zoo in 1902

In looking at this I try to look at the bigger picture. What is it in us that just decides to kill with impunity, and then backtrack and realize we made a mistake? How can we learn to live with and have respect for other creatures? I think it’s critical to our species’ future to learn to do this.

Scientists say we are in the Anthropocene geological age, which is viewed as the period during which human activity has become the dominant influence on climate and the environment. This is a huge responsibility, honestly, I don’t think we are anywhere ready as a species to take on this enormous challenge.

I’m not a wildlife specialist, but I can tell you how I think about my own yard. I don’t plant plants that attract creatures to my yard that I don’t want (hear this Foster City with all your turf grass and open areas next to waterways.) I love my yard, I love the birds that visit, the huge Redwood Tree behind our house, and my wild native grass in the front yard. I try to respect other life that finds refuge in my yard.

An animal protection league offered to pay for a nonlethal remedy that would transform the ecological landscape of Foster City over the years. That is a very generous offer. I do hope they take them up on it as everything I have read states that culling the geese doesn’t work in the long run, that habitat modification does.

Perhaps, also, in this Anthropocene age, we need to search deep in our souls and ask ourselves if we really want to be the only creatures that exist in the wild? This is a challenge of adaptation, if we do it right, everyone, wildlife and humans both, can learn to co-exist.


Historical photograph of mountain of bison skulls documents animals on the brink of extinction

How Canada Geese Bounced Back from Near Extinction to Conquer North America


This is a webinar from urban biologists out of Indiana that is very comprehensive in its discussion of living with Canada Geese.

The Humane Society of the United States has very good information with living with Canada Geese