Chase away geese without firing a shot. This appears to be possible through the use of drones above juicy meadows. “The birds are startled by the sound alone,” says creator Dennis Drost. Animal protection and farmers are enthusiastic about a first trial.
More than up Top Gun, but without weapons, chasing geese with drones is a bit like herding sheep in the air. “Just like a sheepdog, we fly in patterns to get the bird swarm in a certain direction,” says Drost. The aim is to limit damage caused by goose feeding in grassland, vegetable growing and arable farming.
The solution comes not a day too soon. Since the 1970s, the number of geese that hibernate in the Netherlands has increased tenfold to more than 2 million. From a trial on 400 hectares in the Starnmeerpolder in North Holland, agricultural damage seems to be halved thanks to the use of drones.
“The flag can go out,” says Niels Kalkman of the Animal Protection. “This is a win-win-win situation. Better for the farmer, because he prefers to keep his own grass. Better for the province, because it has to pay less compensation. And better for the geese, because they are no longer shot.”
30 million euros in damage
The trial in the Starnmeerpolder covered a period of two months between March and the mowing of the first valuable cut of grass. Every year, provinces pay 30 million euros in compensation for goose damage. By the way, eating the grass bare is not the only problem.
“The fact that they eat my grass is one thing, because that is reimbursed,” says dairy farmer Jeroen Brinkman. Goose poop also makes the grass less attractive to cows and pollutes the ditch water, so that the cattle only want to drink in the stable. “That is an inconvenience for the animal and costs milk production,” says Brinkman.
If the goose moves more to find food, it has less energy left for reproduction
Drost came up with the idea when he flew his drone in a meadow a few years ago and the landowner saw geese flying away. “Keep doing that,” he was encouraged. With the company Drowgoo, he now uses sensors to monitor where geese are located and when the drones have to go.
Does the method have no waterbed effect? “Yes”, Drost admits. “But that also applies to hunting with a gun. Moreover: if the goose moves more to find food, it has less energy left for reproduction.” And geese find drones so irritating that they don’t move just 100 meters, but move miles away.
Mopping with tap open
Animal Protection calls on provinces to embrace peaceful expulsion. Because that organization also recognizes that something must be done against the large population. “When there is a slope, mopping with the tap remains open,” says Kalkman.
He calls the use of drones ‘hopeful’. “We can do this on a much larger scale, whereby you also have to leave nature areas free where geese can stay undisturbed. Ultimately, provinces also benefit from lower claims payments.”
Free unlimited access to Showbytes? Which can!
Log in or create an account and don’t miss a thing of the stars.