RENO - The ever-increasing population of geese in the Reno-Sparks area is causing city officials to consider a ban on feeding waterfowl.
City officials estimate at least 1,500 Canada geese live in the area year round.
"We have more geese than we can support, and if you feed them, you just encourage more of them," city parks manager Jeff Mann said.
The city Parks and Recreation Commission is scheduled to take the matter up at meeting Tuesday and the City Council intends to discuss it Jan. 26.
Under the proposed regulations, feeding waterfowl would be prohibited at Virginia Lake and most other city properties. Some areas would be exempt, including Idlewild Park along the Truckee River, Crissie Caughlin Park, Lake Park and Teglias Paradise Park.
The rules would require the food to be seeds or similar fare bought from a pet store. They would prohibit feeding birds with human food.
First-time violators would get a warning, but repeat offenders could face fines of up to $100.
"Some communities have gone straight to no feeding at all," Mann said. "We realize there are a lot of people grandmothers with their grandchildren that like to participate in this activity."
Lawns and golf courses and plenty of lakes and ponds are largely responsible for the growing goose population, but the free handouts from well-meaning admirers are also a factor, officials said.
The birds cause problems ranging from overgrazing of parks and ball fields to prodigious piles of excrement. Geese accustomed to humans can also become aggressive, sometimes attacking people. And the birds can pose a danger to aircraft.
City officials said they expect some criticism.
"People are going to be angry," predicted Sandra Shaw, who was out with her friend Jan Dwyer feeding birds with seed at Virginia Lake recently.
"It's a real special thing," Shaw said. "It's one of those things you can do with your children that doesn't cost anything."
Mann said the feeding regulations could be a first step of a more comprehensive city program to control the Canada goose population.
Since 1986, when danger the birds posed to aircraft prompted an order by the Federal Aviation Administration, officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have conducted an annual goose roundup, moving the birds to wildlife refuges.