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Parks director wants residents to stop feeding geese

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Geese and ducks make their way from a pond Saturday at the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary to feed on grain brought to them by a resident. (Juno Ogle Photo)

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It’s not illegal to feed wild animals in New Mexico, but the city’s special services and parks director would rather people not feed the ducks and geese at the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary.

The city moved about 60 waterfowl in May last year from the pond at Spring River Zoo, 1306 E. College Blvd., to the J. Kenneth Smith Bird Sanctuary, 401 N. Sycamore Ave., as renovations began on the zoo pond.

Jim Burress, Special Services and Parks director, said that move was done with approval of the New Mexico Game and Fish Department.

The process of cleaning and draining the zoo pond began in March 2020, where decades of debris and silt were removed. Some areas were made deeper and angles of the banks reshaped. New landscaping will be added along with picnic tables and other amenities.

“The geese were moved where they’d have a better home for now. There’s no shelter left. If you look at the pond at the zoo, there’s no shelter, no cover. There’s nothing,” Burress said.

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Burress said there were limited options within the city for relocating the ducks and geese that would provide adequate food, water and shelter.

“You look at the city of Roswell, we don’t have that many sources. I have the golf course and I have the bird sanctuary,” he said.    

Burress said whether or not the birds will be brought back to the zoo pond is not yet known.

“When the pond at the zoo is ready, we’ll get Game and Fish. If there are geese still there (at the sanctuary), we’ll talk about relocation if they don’t want them where they’re at,” Burress said.

But some Roswell residents, concerned the ducks and geese haven’t been fed while at the sanctuary, have taken matters into their own hands, bringing grain and other feed for them.

City code does not address feeding wildlife, but state statute does.

“It’s legal to feed wildlife but not to create a nuisance,” Tristanna Bickford, communications director for New Mexico Game and Fish, said.

State statute says it is unlawful “to cause a nuisance game animal or depredation problem by baiting, feeding or otherwise enticing game animals to an area.”

Burress said not feeding the waterfowl is the best action.

“If you feed them, it’s like any wild animal. If you feed it, now it’s your pet. Stop it,” he said.

“If you stop feeding, they’re smart enough they’re going to leave. They will go to water and a food source,” Burress said.

If the birds should become a nuisance, Burress said the city will look at relocating them.

“We’ll work with the authorities to make sure the geese are taken care of in a proper manner,” he said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.