RESIDENTS have branded a cull of Canada geese “barbaric” after they were woken early in the morning by the sound of gunfire in a neighbourhood park.
The shooting at the lake at Longton Park began soon after 5am yesterday and lasted for at least half-an-hour.
One neighbour today described being particularly unnerved as the shots rang out just hours after she had seen TV footage of a gunman running amok in Cumbria, massacring 12 people.
Cassie Fletcher, whose home in Queens Park Avenue, Dresden, overlooks the park, said: “When you hear all that shooting at that time of the morning, the first thing in your mind is whether something similar is happening here. It made it doubly worrying.”
She was woken up by the noise just before 6am and rang the police immediately.
An officer said it was a pest control operation and they had been warned in advance.
Mrs Fletcher, pictured below, then saw birds trying to flee the park.
The 47-year-old Animal Lifeline volunteer said: “The ducks and birds coming through the hedge and on to the road. They were clearly distressed.
“In my view, the geese had been causing no harm whatsoever.
“You would see families going to the park to feed them. You’d also see the babies born and watch them grow up.
“To cull the birds in such a barbaric way is beyond belief.”
But Rugeley-based Wildlife Management Services, the independent firm contracted to carry out the operation by Stoke-on-Trent City Council, today defended its actions.
Company boss Stuart Willows would not confirm how many Canada geese were shot. But he said the culling was done selectively and affected less than 30 per cent of the park’s geese. None of those killed were goslings or parents of young geese.
Mr Willows, who has worked in the pest control field for 40 years, added: “The reason we control Canada geese comes under personal health, air safety, and to protect indigenous species.
“Canada geese are also rather delightful in that they have a habit of going to the toilet every 11 minutes. If you have hundreds of birds in an area, the defecation is horrific.”
Wildlife Management Services is licensed to carry out this kind of work and can use different methods.
But the design of Longton Park meant it would have been difficult to round up the birds and transport them elsewhere to be slaughtered, so a shotgun was used instead.
Mr Willows said the cull was done early in the morning as it was before the park opened to the public.
Jane Forshaw, the city council’s head of environmental services, today apologised to residents for any distress.
She said: “Culling is sadly necessary as the birds inflict damage to the habitats of other animals and cause a nuisance and potential health problem with their droppings.”