From The Cincinnati Enquirer, May 5, 2013
by Val Prevish, Enquirer contributor
When a large flock of geese suddenly began gathering on Elder High School’s 65-acre athletic complex two years ago, leaving droppings where students practiced and played games, the school’s facilities manager, Dick McCoy, knew he needed to do something fast. “The first day I saw 20 geese,” he said. “The next day I saw 30 or 40 geese. After a week there were about 60 geese and they were all over the fields. It was taking hours each day to clean up after them.”
Luckily, through a family connection, McCoy knew Tom Wells, founder of Away With Geese, which makes a product that uses light to dissuade geese from nesting.
Wells, who started Away With Geese in 2006, after a friend asked him to come up with a solution for geese nesting on his pond, has seen his business grow steadily as one of the only products available that is guaranteed to get rid of geese.
Sales have grown 20 percent per year, although Wells did not divulge figures, and the company is now selling the devices around the world through its website, awaywithgeese.com, and through a network of about 60 distributors. During this, their busiest time of year, they ship out as many as 400 of the lights per month.
In the fall of 2011, just a few weeks after the initial geese appeared at Elder, the school bought three of Wells’ lights at $350 apiece and placed them around the athletic complex where they can protect up to three acres of space each.
“After two days of the lights, I never saw them again,” said McCoy, who now uses the lights during the spring, summer and fall to keep the geese from coming back. He also added a fourth to the school’s tennis courts after the geese showed up there.
Although Wells has no experience in wildlife management or inventing, he has spent most of his life as an entrepreneur in the restaurant and retail business and knew how to think on his feet.
He spent time researching the habits of geese, which have multiplied rapidly as predators have disappeared and increasing development disrupted their migration patterns. His investigations led to the creation of his two- foot tall, amber-colored LED light product, which blinks rapidly and chases geese away by disturbing their rest at night so that they look elsewhere for nesting sites.
Michael Champ, a biology professor at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Va., has spent most of his career teaching pond and lake management practices. In his opinion, Wells’ lights are one of the few products on the market that actually work to prevent geese from taking up residence at your favorite golf course or lake.
“The other products out there aren’t labor- or cost-effective,” said Champ of devices such as predator cut-outs and dog patrols used during the day to chase geese away. “They can get accustomed to the cut-outs, and when dogs are used during the day the geese just come back at night.
“The matriarch of the geese family is the one who watches for predators. When the lights are on at night, she’s distracted and can’t watch for danger. She gets frustrated and leaves, and takes the whole flock with her.”
Champ said geese are attracted to the type of ponds and fields people build for recreation, home developments or industrial parks. They like protected areas such as fenced sports facilities or ponds with mowed grass banks because they feel safe from predators.