I got a strange feeling as I biked to and from work Thursday via the Capital City Trail and Brittingham Park.
Many of the Canada geese that had taken up residence along the shores of Lake Monona and Monona Bay were gone, leaving in their wake only goose-poop-smeared asphalt and a distinct sense of the untoward.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed Thursday that about 200 of the birds were rounded up last week in Madison for euthanasia, including some from Brittingham.
Considering how passionate people were in the more than year-long debate over what to do with Madison’s burgeoning goose population, the birds’ actual removal was pretty quiet — maybe a little too quiet.
Not that there’s anything we could have done about that.
Federal animal control officials did not provide much information about the roundup and routinely declined to say exactly when one would occur, fearing crowds of protesters and media could muck up their work by further upsetting the geese.
Instead, one day the geese are here. The next, gone. I imagine fatigues-clad goose-mitigation SWAT teams swooping in at 2 a.m. to hustle the birds into unmarked black vans — a kind of wildlife rendition, if you will.
USDA spokeswoman Carol Bannerman pointed out that it’s hard to schedule a roundup too far in advance because you have wait on the birds to lose their flight feathers before they can be caught. But she acknowledged there are still a couple of days’ advance notice.
A couple of days wouldn’t be enough to obtain the roundup time through a federal freedom of information request, however — even though it appeared to attorney Bob Dreps, who works on open government issues for Wisconsin news media, that there would be no reason under the law to deny it.
By the time you found out when the animals were to be taken, they would have long been converted into food-pantry-bound goose burgers or feed for other animals.
I’m not an animal-rights person and never had a problem with unleashing lethal force on Madison’s geese. (Although I still think they could have been marketed as a “local food.” What’s more local than eating the goose you had to avoid on your morning bike ride to work?)
Their waste was fouling parks and lakes, and Dane County Regional Airport officials said they were a hazard to planes. They’re also mean; I once saw one of them go after a jogger who was coming a little too close to one of its goslings.
But the secrecy surrounding their demise seems insulting to those who fought to save them. It also alludes to how disconnected we are from the circumstances of the animals we kill, especially the mass-produced ones that end up on our plates.
Maybe no one would have turned out to watch a couple hundred dirty, overly fertile animals meet their maker. But maybe someone should have, if only to remind us of the responsibility that comes with being at the top the food chain.