If you think you’re swamped with things to do on campus, you aren’t nearly as busy as Bee. Bee is a border collie that was enlisted earlier this year to help with the university’s growing Canadian geese problem, and this decision seems to be paying off favorably.
The herding dog starts off at the crack of dawn, at around 6:45 a.m. every day to do her first run through the campus. Bee can be seen sprinting through the campus chasing geese that have come over night. After moving the 15-pound birds from the core of the university, Bee goes to her other sites off campus as she continues to work her magic around northeast Florida.
Bee’s handler, David Bennett of Goose Masters, explained that this process will take time, but could definitely pay off in the end.
“[We patrol] a 93-acre site with huge ponds and we haven’t seen a goose there in six weeks,” said Bennett. “But [UNF] will take a little time. We’re fighting generations of birds here.”
The four-year-old pup is no amateur. Training begins at just eight months old. The pooches start off chasing goats and sheep before they graduate to geese, but not all of them make it.
Bee and her handler David Bennett returned to campus at about 3:30 p.m., for round two against those pesky geese. We start off by the pond in front of the Coggin College of Business.
There were not many geese visible on the parts of the campus we patrolled, hinting that Bee’s tactics are working. But there were one or two who consistently stayed around this area. The reason these few stayed was because they have already nested, and they are not leaving their babies willingly.
The nesting geese aren’t chased away like the others unless they start poop excessively on the sidewalks. As long as the sidewalks are clear, Bee steers clear of the soon-to-be parents.
“[UNF is] a beautiful campus and has the greenest grass anywhere around, and it’s like a buffet to them,” Bennett said. “A full grown geese will eat three pounds of grass a day and [produces] about a pound and a half [of waste] a day, so they can do a lot of damage.”
As Bee struts to our next location, the pond across from the Wellness Center, she looks like a celebrity. People stop to take pictures, give a quick head rub, exchange kisses and shoot friendly smiles in her direction. The black and white canine soaks up all the attention. Her handler describes her as an attention hound–she’s loved around campus and she knows it.
Just like us, Bee gets hot in this almost 90 degree Florida weather. To cool off, she hops into the pond for a quick dip and then it’s right back to work. There were not many geese there either and only a couple could be seen.
As soon as the birds saw Bee, loud squawking and honking filled the air, only building the anticipation. Bee never barks–she’d rather let her work speak for itself.
Bee stalks the geese like a cheetah would its prey, crouching her slender frame down in the grass and sneaking towards them, until she’s close enough to break into a full sprint.
Bee locks her eyes on the geese and on-command she takes off behind them. Her legs become a blur, she almost looks like she’s floating toward the large birds as they fly away from the pseudo threat.
The geese are actually not in any danger at all. Bee does not bite the birds, nor does she even get close enough to do so. The Canadian birds just think they are in danger because she looks like one of their natural predators, coyotes and foxes. The birds take flight as they are not in the business of finding out if she’s a real threat or not.
Many of the geese fly to “geese-safe” areas such as housing areas and the outer rim of the campus. Bee and her co-workers are not contracted to move those geese, so large numbers of the birds may still be seen in those areas.
As we walk from site-to-site, her handler walks Bee on a leash out of respect for students and community members that are not too fond of dogs. Any time Bee is close to a moving car or vehicles, she is also on a leash for her safety. Sometimes the pup has tunnel vision when it comes to chasing geese and doesn’t pay enough attention to moving cars.
Bee is the main border collie on campus, but she does have two other colleagues that help her patrol the core of UNF. Molly isn’t quite the ham that Bee is. This may be due to the fact that Molly is still considered a puppy. Tex, who is an older male border collie, is also on campus but he is set to retire some time this year.
Bee is the primary dog because of her incredible social skills. She loves head rubs and giving out kisses to any and all takers. The hound loves meeting new people and making new friends–the only condition is you have to pet her.
“Bee has become an all-around dog,” said Bennett. “She still likes to work but she’s friendly and will come up to students.”
We trekked to our last location of the day, the pond outside of the library. The energetic pup continues to turn the heads of many college students, and she soaks it all up. I could count the number of geese I saw at that location on my hands. I honestly expected to see a lot more than I did as we traveled around the campus.
Something was different at this location. Instead of Bee charging the geese like she previously had, she stayed along the wall of a building.
With the precision of a doctor, the intelligent dog gently picked up an egg and brought it to Bennett. The egg was not punctured or damaged in any way. Bennett simply returned the egg to its nest.
Bee was our personal body guard as we took a closer look at the nest she discovered. She kept watch making sure no geese would launch a sneak attack as we admired the nest. Bee was so gentle that you could not tell that she had ever discovered the nest.
So three months in, Bee is definitely hard at work around campus. One look into the border collie’s big, bright eyes and you’ll fall in love. It’s hard to argue that Bee is on her way to becoming an honorary Osprey.
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