As a Guardian columnist, I hope to educate, inspire debate and ruffle some feathers while taking a gander at our Grand Lake neighborhood and sometimes beyond. Since a “gander” is by definition both a “quick glance” and a “male goose” it’s entirely fitting that my first column is about the Lake Merritt geese that are responsible for “All the Poop That's Fit to Scoop.”

I have a lot in common with these Canadian natives. They came to visit; loved the incredible Mediterranean climate; opted to stay; eat much too well; often get cranky; and have borne multiple offspring. I am, however, quick to note that I cherish my privacy and am very selective in my choice of bathroom facilities. The geese, on the other hand, go where and when they want, which means that all the lawns, playgrounds and pathways surrounding the Lake are littered with their signature calling cards to the point that recreational use of these areas has become increasingly problematic.

In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle earlier this year, Jim Zamora reported that some 2,000 geese populate the Lake during the summer “molt” and they each produce about a pound of feces per day. Zamora described this as “a lot of poop.” Since President Bush uttered the “S” word in his not-so-private conversation with Tony Blair back in July, I think we have license to put this in more graphic terms. It is literally a ton of shit! Think, if you will, about going to the Grand Lake Ace Nursery, where you load up your Toyota with 80, 25-pound, bags of manure… only to find yourself caught in a Groundhog Day time warp, where you go back day after day after day to pick up and spread more. That’s what’s happening cumulatively at Lake Merritt.

If Punxsutawney Phil were to poke his head out of a burrow alongside Lakeshore Avenue, he’d say “to Hell with the Mediterranean climate,” pack his bags and head back to Pennsylvania. If Alfred Hitchcock were to film a remake of “The Birds,” geese would be the perpetrators. Although I’m hearing reports of homicidal geese attacking toddlers and little old ladies, I suspect Hitchcock would more likely have the unfortunate victims up to their eyeballs in bird droppings.

This is not a problem unique to Oakland. Other municipalities have already instituted or are considering control measures. Interestingly enough, one of the most effective controls was totally unplanned and unexpected. In many major metropolitan areas, there has been a surprising resurgence in the coyote population. The Ohio State Research News reported a population of between 300 and 2,000 coyotes in Chicago alone. The coyotes thrived on goose eggs (presumably over easy with a side of hash browns) and, as a result, the Chicago goose population—previously increasing by 10 to 20 percent per year—is now stable.

I don’t think anybody (even me) is crazy enough to suggest introducing coyotes into the Lake Merritt environs. There are, after all, legitimate concerns about children and small pets—not to mention all the native birds that frequent the nation’s oldest bird sanctuary, which was established in 1869. If coyotes are out, what other resources are available? Border collies have been used quite effectively to harass geese and drive them to more-remote quarters. Eggs have been culled from nests. Food has been spiked to reduce the rate of reproduction. I’ve even heard some anonymous suggestions that geese become a mainstay on our local menus. Envision, if you will, a smartly dressed couple sitting at a candle-lit table in the new Municipal Boathouse restaurant pointing out the window and saying to their waiter, “We’ll take that one just to the right of the big eucalyptus.”

There is, of course, a fly in the ointment. There’s bound to be a small, but vocal, minority who will oppose any such measures. The ultimate solution may be to convince them that the geese are carrying the avian flu virus and we are all going to die. Maybe that would be sufficient. Maybe not! In any case, we will all get an opportunity to discuss the goose problem and consider possible solutions, thanks to a meeting that is about to be announced by city-council members Pat Kernighan and Nancy Nadel for later this month.

I’ll be there, but in disguise. Something tells me that in this, my very first column, I may have ruffled a few too many feathers.