CASH Courier > Fall 2002 / Winter 2003 Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier
From the Fall 2002 / Winter 2003 Issue



We asked Mary Ann Sveom of SAVE THE GEESE to share her and her groupís amazing, efforts of protecting geese in three parks in Wisconsin. We hope that it will serve as an inspiration to others who can save lives, battle unfair policies, and wear away at the hunting business, which robs us all of enjoyment and destroys what is legally ours.

For space reasons, we had to cut some of the detail, but please contact Mary Ann to learn about her successful activism and organization, Save the Geese. Mary Ann Sveom, Save the Geese, c/o John, P.O. Box 2086, Janesville, WI 53547-2086. [email protected]


Prelude to the hunts:

Around the 20th of August, I read in our local paper that a Janesville, WI woman, Carol Roehl, had demonstrated at Traxler Park trying to draw attention to a petition she was passing around to stop Janesville officials from opening the park and three others to goose hunting scheduled for September 3rd through the 15th.

When I contacted Carol, she explained how the council had passed the decision in August to open four parks to hunters to shoot geese. She told me that she had been there with a petition containing 200 signatures against this proposed hunt, but they wouldnít recognize her when she raised her hand to speak. Not dissuaded from her mission, she continued circulating the petition until the next council meeting. I began to help by contacting every organization I could think of for help in convincing the Janesville council not to go ahead with this hunt (GeesePeace, Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, Humane Society of the United States, and a Madison, WI group: Alliance for Animals, and others.

We gathered as much information as we could find on non-lethal ways of reducing goose populations, and presented it to the city manager, and director of Leisure Services.

On August 26th, a small group of us went to the Janesville City Council meeting and spoke during the opening citizen participation time. Carol presented her petition of, by then, 800 signatures and asked them to put a halt to this hunt because "the park geese are so tame you can pet them". She asked for a revote. The council was, however, entrenched in its decision and prepared for controversy. When I addressed the council, I mentioned the packet they had been given the day before with all the information on non-lethal methods that have been proven to work and weren't all that expensive to try. I also quoted from a report by Leisure Services, their own division, which stated, "because of safety concerns and public relations issues, the City Administration does not recommend a goose hunt at this time. In addition, we believe the hunt will not significantly reduce our goose population. A few geese will be shot, but most will fly away and return later in the season".

Further, I had been involved with my own city of Beloit's discussion as to what to do about our goose population, and read a fax that had been sent to us by the director of our Parks Dept. (Beloit is only about 12 miles from Janesville). In it he told how they had discussed the goose population in our parks last year and decided to try letting the grass grow long along the Rock River's banks first. That has worked all by itself to reduce the complaints about geese down to nothing. They hadn't even implemented a "no feeding" ordinance. I read from other organizations and my closing remark was: "can you tell me where we can get some bullet proof vests? Because we will be out there trying to stop this hunt!" That statement got some press and air time for our cause.

During the week before the hunts were to start, I wrote letters to the editors of both Janesville and Beloit papers asking concerned citizens to call, write, or e-mail all the councilors, city manager, and director of Leisure Services demanding that they not have this hunt. Other organizations proved invaluable to us because they contacted other people throughout the United States to help us protest via e-mail, phone calls, and letters. They sent out press releases too, keeping newspapers and television stations informed of what was happening in the Janesville Parks. In our copy of the report from Leisure Services there were four aerial view photo/maps of the four parks targeted for the hunts. They were complete with circles drawn on them to show recommended safe hunting areas. We found out that one of the parks was taken off the "hit list" because there was a school close by and the school officials wouldn't lift the law that bans guns within so many feet of a school. That left three parks.

The first two mornings, Tues., Sept. 3 and Wed., Sept. 4, we arrived at the parks before 7:00 a.m. We patrolled the three parks all during the daylight hours until about 7:30 p.m. We stayed in contact with each other using cell phones. We also made a list of available people willing to stay in the parks or patrol through them and the times they were available. There were no hunts or attempts on those days, but there was a lot of traffic through the parks by lone men, so we figured they were hunters planning when to have hunts. As we were getting ready to call it a day on Wednesday, Carol and I noticed three men sitting in a picnic shelter at Kiwanis Pond, one of the parks. We didn't know at that time what times the hunts could legally be done, so we chased a small group of geese off the grass down by the Pond and into the water. Then we stayed there until the three men left. It was getting dark. Later we learned that these three were part of a team of hunters assigned to hunt at that park.

The next morning, Thurs., Sept. 5, one of our protesters arrived at Traxler Park before the rest of us. I was on my way, talking to her on the cell phone. She saw police cars in Traxler Park. I immediately called our other protesters to get there, ASAP. When I arrived, she told me someone had killed 8 geese and stuffed them in the trashcan outside of Carol's paddleboat business. The trashcan had been half full of trash already so the geese stuck up out of the top of it. I was so angry when I saw them that I screamed at the police, "I want to know who did this!" The officer said it would be on the police report because they knew who did it. A police officer had talked to the guy at about 5:30 a.m. that morning when he was seen leaving the geese there. Again I screamed, "I want you to get him!" One officer nodded at me and said, "We will, ma'am. We know who he is." Why had they let him go in the first place? we wondered. The officers told us not to touch anything because "the DNR had to take care of them". I had called the Janesville Gazette and they arrived as two more of our protesters did. The photographer took pictures and the reporter interviewed us. All of a sudden a park employee pulled up in a truck and started toward the trash can. I told him he couldn't remove the geese because it was a crime scene and the police had said the DNR would have to take care of it. The employee continued to move toward the can, so I stood in front of him and told him I would not let him take the geese. He said he had a job to do because he had gotten a call and was told to remove them. I held my ground until he left. He called his supervisor who then called the police on me. Two officers arrived a short time later and one of them told me to move away or they would arrest me. I calmly explained that we had been told not to touch anything by the other two officers. When I told him they had told us the DNR would have to take care of it, he said that the employee "had a job to do and this wasn't a crime scene or it would have tape around it." He was very gruff and bossy. I requested an apology from him later when he asked for my name, age, and address, but he just said, "for what?" The Janesville Gazette put the story with a picture on the front page of that day's paper. We later learned that that man would not be charged for anything - neither by the Janesville police nor the DNR.

I spoke with a Fed. Fish and Wildlife agent also, who informed me the man had done nothing illegal because he had taken a small amount of breast meat from each goose, which then made the rest of their bodies trash, even though they looked and felt completely whole when we lifted up one of the bags that contained 2 of them. The news coverage, both in the paper and on television, garnered much support for our cause and more people came to protest and offer other support. 


Later that same morning, at about 10:00, we saw police move into Traxler Park and barricade it with only my husband and myself inside. Our other protesters were patrolling the other parks. The policeman with whom Iíd had words earlier asked us to voluntarily leave the park because they were "going to be harvesting some geese," but I refused saying, "No, I canít. I won't!" My husband stayed with me. I immediately got on my cell phone and started calling the media to ask for coverage, and called our other protesters and supporters to ask for assistance. Even though the officer asked me to remain by my car, I grabbed my pots and started to walk toward the middle of the park where there were geese to scare them back into the water into an area where I knew they couldn't hunt. Leisure Services employees were shooting off noisemakers at the geese to herd them or drive them out of the area I had moved them into, but the geese stayed put. Other protesters had arrived along with the Gazette photographer and reporter, but they were kept out of the park.

I was sure they would start the hunt and arrest us, but then they allowed the Gazette photographer in, and the cars that were outside the barricades started to leave. I learned later those were hunters - very angry because they couldn't hunt in that park.

Then the barricades came down, I heard Carol say, "We've got to get to the other parks." We discovered that there had been a hunt in Riverside Park, where 5 geese were killed; at the time we were all at Traxler. I can't tell you how bad we feel about leaving that park "unprotected". The geese they shot were a small group that we had seen the past 2 days on the grass all by themselves. We never dreamed they'd go after such a small group.

Fri., Sept. 6, Sat., Sept. 7, and Sun., Sept. 8 there were no hunts, but they did shoot off noisemakers in Traxler Park in the early afternoon on Friday. We were in the parks each day, all day, patrolling them or staying in them.

Mon., Sept. 9 by 6:00 a.m., when two of our protesters arrived at Riverside Park, the police already had it closed with barricades. One of our protesters walked around the barricade attempting to get into the park, but was physically stopped and handcuffed. She was put into a squad car and taken down to the police dept. near downtown Janesville. I was calling our other protesters telling them to get to that park and to check out the other ones. Carol and her 13 year old daughter got into the park without being seen by the police and Carol waded out into a marshy area where she was planning to stay to try to stop any shooting in the park. Her daughter, however, was physically stopped when police saw her trying to go to her mother. They handcuffed her and put her in a squad car. The police then threw Carol a rope so she could pull herself out of the muddy area to go to her daughter. They took her daughter down to the police dept. where our other protester was just being released. She had been charged with "resisting arrest" and "obstructing an officer", both class A misdemeanors, and was given a court date. Carol's daughter was harassed on the way to the police station by the officer driving her there. He made goose noises and said her mother was a freak for going out into the mud. She was interrogated without her mother or any other representation with her at the police department. When Carol got there, she was informed that the matter would be referred to the juvenile authorities and her daughter would get state charges of "resisting" and "obstructing". She didn't get anything in writing, but was told it would be sent to her in about 10 days. Her wrists were bruised and swollen, and the neck of her sweatshirt was torn where the officer had used it to pull her into the squad car. We took pictures of her, and Carol took her to the doctor to document her condition. Carol and her daughter were interviewed by the Janesville Gazette and a Rockford, IL television station, and both did a story on it. We found out later that the hunt was called off at Riverside soon after their arrests because "there were no geese there to hunt".

As we were all on our way to city hall for the City Council meeting early that evening, the hunters moved into Kiwanis Pond and shot 5 geese there. Two of our protesters discovered police and hunters leaving the park when they went to patrol it right before the council meeting was to start, and I was told by a fisherman that shots were fired.

We learned a hard lesson that day, to keep someone in the parks as a lookout all the time, all day long during the time they could hunt (6:00 a.m. - 7:15 p.m.). We spoke at that council meeting, asking them to call off the hunt now. HSUS sent someone to speak also, trying to be a mediator, and get them to stop the hunts. They wouldn't.

Tues., Sept 10 at 5:00 p.m. hunters were in Kiwanis Pond wanting to hunt, but there were no geese. We had patrolled that area most of the day, observing that there were no geese, so we left it "unwatched" for a couple hours in the mid to late afternoon. The hunters had evidently taken that opportunity to set up the hunt. As another form of protest, we sat up lawn chairs near the pavilion in Traxler Park to observe the Leisure Services employees having a department cook out. I also videotaped them. One of their employees, Tom Presny, who was the one who set off the noisemakers in the parks and oversaw all the hunts, came zooming into the park and almost hit one of our protesters who was walking in the parking lot. He must've been over at Kiwanis Pond for the attempted hunt.

Wed., Sept. 11 = there were no hunts today, although we wouldn't have put it past them, so we were prepared. Janesville chose this day to open and dedicate a new park ironically named "Peace Park".

Thurs, Sept. 12 = Police asked two of our protesters to leave Riverside Park shortly after 5:00 a.m. They complied. Then police barricaded it. When we arrived at Kiwanis Pond, it was already barricaded. One of our protestors got into the area and saw there were no geese, so we headed to Traxler and Riverside Parks. Traxler was open so some of us stayed there, while I went to Riverside with two other protesters. While we were kept outside the park at a police barricade with 5 policemen, I filmed everything that went on and turned on a body alarm, screamed, and flailed my arms around whenever any geese flew toward the park. They often turned and avoided the park, but one group of 5 flew over the park and a hunter shot one of them. I videotaped that too. Later, that hit me really hard and the memory still haunts me. The hunters were not sticking to the areas that were circled on the aerial photo/map of the park in the Leisure Services report. We could hear noisemakers being shot off somewhere outside of the park. Our other protesters said they were being shot off at Traxler, but also outside of both of the parks. They apparently were trying to get the geese to fly into Riverside where the hunters were waiting for them.

I observed the one goose get killed in the air flying over the park, but Leisure Services reported that a total of 3 were killed in the park that morning. We did hear other shots fired, so it could be true.

At 6:00 p.m. a police car and one policeman barricaded Kiwanis Pond. We could see 4 hunters holding shotguns on the shore facing the pond. There were no geese. They only stayed a short time, and then moved a few blocks down the road to the National Guard Armory, where there were a group of geese on the front lawn. They shot off noisemakers to try to scare the geese into the pond, but it didn't work. We were right there with the geese and in the pond area, and stayed until it was past the legal time that they could hunt.

Fri., Sept. 13 = Riverside Park was closed at 5:00 a.m. One of our protesters got inside without being seen, but was found and escorted out. My husband and I went out in a small aluminum rowboat that we had borrowed. We put it in the water across the river from the park and rowed to the area that we had observed hunters shooting from the morning before. We kept the boat right out in the open in the area. A boat with 2 hunters zoomed up out of the trees in a motorboat and told us we were interfering with the hunt and we had to leave the area. I said they didn't have jurisdiction over the river. The hunters said, "the County does and we're going to call them, and they'll come and arrest you". I said, "we'll tell them 'hello'". Then another boat with a hunter and a policeman in it came up to us and the policeman asked what we were doing. I held up a fishing pole that was in the boat. He asked if we had our fishing license. I said, "no". My husband said, "but we don't have any bait." The policeman said that we were still in violation of DNR statutes and he'd have to report us. He asked our names and we gave them to him. He knew me and said I was famous. I said, "Isnít it a shame that I have to be." He also said we had to leave the area. If we didn't, he said the DNR would go looking for our cars. My husband slowly paddled down stream out of the area. We heard shots fired in an area of the park where there are private residences. One of our protesters asked about that and was told by a policeman that they had permission from the homeowners to shoot on their property. We didn't see any geese shot, but Leisure Services reported that 2 geese were killed that day in that park.

Later that day we used hard plastic, single person boats in Kiwanis Pond and kept them manned until past the legal time the hunters could hunt. We had decided to have a cookout in Traxler Park that day, so a friend rented the pavilion all day from Leisure Services and got their assurance that there would be no hunts during that time (8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.). We kept protesters in Riverside Park all day also.

Sat., Sept. 14 = Riverside Park was closed by 5:00 a.m. when we arrived there. While we stood at the police barricade, we saw the police turn about 6 vehicles and a couple joggers away over a 3-hour period. Again I was videotaping. I told the police they were conducting "selective enforcement" by allowing hunters into the park, but keeping everyone else out. One hunter, that the police let drive into the park, said to me, "don't take my picture. I don't give you permission to take my picture. You're gonna find that (my camera) in the river!" That same hunter masked his face when they were driving out of the park after the hunt. Two of our protesters got into the park without being seen by the police, but were discovered by two officers and escorted out. The hunt could not take place while there were any civilians in the park. I saw one goose flying alone overhead get shot by a hunter across the river from the park. A DNR warden was with the police at the barricade that morning, so I asked him if that was allowed for a hunter to shoot that close to us, from across the river, outside of the park. He said it was okay because it was in the township.

That hunter was one of the city parks "team". We heard noisemakers being shot off outside of the park. When we asked the DNR warden about that being appropriate, he denied hearing any noisemakers. We also saw the hunters put out decoys to try to attract the geese into the park because there were no geese when they started the hunt. I also videotaped that. There were no more geese shot during the 3 hours that they had closed the park. At 8:00 a.m. the Leisure Services Parks Director, Tom Presny, walked up to the police and the DNR warden, said something to them, then addressed all of us. I thought he was going to have us all arrested on some trumped up charge. Instead, he announced that he was calling an end to the Parks Hunts and there would be no more shots fired in the city of Janesville. He stated that there would be meetings set up with us so we could work together in the future. To date, none of us have heard from either him or the Leisure Services Director, Mike Williams, about any meetings.

Leisure Services has just released a report on the goose hunts, conveniently leaving out any cost analysis. They deemed the hunt a success and say the parks where they were able to carry out hunts have fewer geese in them now, even though only 16 geese were "harvested" (killed). We are now in the migratory goose season, so I don't know how they get the idea that there are fewer geese in those parks.

The report states that "the protesters interfered with the hunts" and that we "violated Federal statutes, but the DNR didn't have enough evidence to prosecute" us. The misdemeanor charges against the one protester who got them and the charges against the 13 year old have been dropped by the D.A. because the charges were too severe and the lack of evidence. His office has reportedly stated that, "the city attorney can charge them with a lesser charge if he wants to. After all, they (the city) caused the situation".

We are planning to fight at least one trespassing charge that is a city ordinance violation. One protester was also charged with illegal fireworks possession and speeding. A small price to pay, we feel, to have prevented the killing of the large number of geese that the city had planned to let the hunters try to do.

A SAVE THE GEESE Fund has been set up at the Associated Bank at 2525 Milton Ave. in Janesville, WI 53545 to help offset our expenses, fines, and court costs. And, hopefully, continue to protect and help the geese in the future.

Return to Fall 2002 / Winter 2003 Issue


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