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Sick of geese? Bring back Tom and Jerry

Bring back Tom and Jerry.

No, not the cartoon. We, as college students, wouldn’t be up early enough on a Saturday morning to catch the show anyway.

No, I’m talking about the real Tom and Jerry, the ones who really improved the lives of the UW community — the lovable retired lawyer and his German shorthaired pointer who roamed our university’s grounds during the summer to scare off Canada geese.

Tom Finnelly and Jerry the dog started doing work after a casual conversation with former UW and current NCAA president Mark Emmert, and were doing patrols four to five times weekly.

Tom and Jerry seem to have disappeared. Howard Nakase, UW’s manager of Landscape and Ground Operations, hasn’t seen the pair recently. A brief search online of Tom’s name shows that he is the team principal for Deer Valley Racing in Arizona, with nothing indicating he currently resides in Seattle. Tom also didn’t respond to an email inquiry.

Tom and Jerry, by all accounts, are gone.

And Lord knows we could use them; a leisurely walk near Drumheller Fountain, in front of Guggenheim Hall, is reason enough to wish the waterfowl away. With no apparent fear of the hoards of students who walk the pathways and enjoy the sun on a daily basis, the geese sit and poop, sit and poop — all over the path and the grass.

Not only is it unsightly, it might be more prevalent in this commonly used area right now than it has been in the past. Although Nakase, who has had many years of experience with geese both at the UW and in previous jobs, said the number likely hasn’t increased overall, but that the geese tend to move around and stay in different locations. The grassy area outside Guggenheim Hall, for example, is their current spot.

But the numbers, at least at a regional level, do tend to show an uptick in area waterfowl. A report released late last month by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service showed a record-high estimate of North American waterfowl, and local reports have mirrored the national data.

“We have higher numbers again this year, so it could be another record year,” a waterfowl official from Fish and Wildlife told The Seattle Times last month regarding the state’s expected waterfowl population.

However, I trust Nakase. If he says the overall number hasn’t really increased, it probably hasn’t.

So then why have so many geese decided to congregate near Drumheller? Well, construction might be a big part of it. With the work being done near the E-1 parking lot near the nature reserve — specifically, the new athletic facilities being built just north of the new baseball field — some geese could be moving over. Nakase said the construction could be scaring the geese into new locations closer to campus.

To fix the problem, options are limited. Nakase said they might be able to get help from the state if the UW is able to show the geese population is of great concern or is causing health issues, which they seldom do beyond being a perpetual annoyance. In fact, in the words of one UW administrator, “all they know is eating grass, pooping, and birthing little geese.”

Charles Easterberg, UW public health adviser, said there isn’t much that can be done to get rid of the birds, adding that they’re nonmigratory and live in the Lake Washington watershed. Cleanup costs can range between $500 and $1500 for the Drumheller area alone, which is paid for with tuition dollars, so it’s just a matter of cleaning their 5-17 droppings per bird, per day.

“The question really is, ‘Are current levels of geese acceptable, and how much do we really want to spend cleaning up after them?’” Easterberg said.

Easterberg wasn’t convinced the dynamic duo made much of a difference when it came to scaring off geese, but one can only dream.

Reach opinion writer William Dow at opinion@dailyuw.com. Twitter: @DowBill

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