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Border Collies Hired to Chase Gulls Off of Bradford Beach: Effort Reduces E. Coli-Tainted Bird Droppings in the Sand

July 4, 2008

By Alex Lundy, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Jul. 4–The Milwaukee County Parks Department has given summer jobs to border collies, to make the shore at Bradford Beach less hospitable to E. coli-spreading gulls.

“The beach had such a challenge with the seagulls,” Parks Director Sue Black said. “This is a low-tech solution. It’s been very, very successful.”

The program started two weeks ago as part of an effort to improve the beach’s environment. Gull droppings on the beach contain E. coli bacteria, which can contaminate the water around the beach and make it unsuitable for swimming.

Migratory Bird Management handles the dogs responsible for the bird-shooing. Katie Gramoll, a field operations manager for the company, said border collies are best for the work because they don’t harm the birds and they “give the eye.”

“It’s a predatory action similar to what wolves and coyotes and foxes do when they’re stalking their prey,” she said. “It’s why they’re so effective at dispersing these birds.”

Two of the border collies will roam the lakefront for eight hours every day, except holidays, through Labor Day.

Milwaukee County Parks hired the dogs with the help of a $500,000 donation from Miller Brewing Co. to the Bradford Beach Blue Wave Campaign, a partnership of public and private agencies working to revitalize the beach.

Black said improving Bradford reached her priority list on her second day as director in 2004, when she saw the poor state the beach was in. The efforts by the campaign so far, she said, have made an incredible difference.

“Everybody worked together. We didn’t point fingers at each other,” she said. “We just wanted to know, what can we do to bring our beach back?”

Black visited other beaches to research the best ways to restore Bradford. After doing some homework, Black said, she took the practices she found most effective and brought them home.

“Bradford is something everybody relates to one way or another,” she said. “Now, you feel like you’re on vacation and it’s right in your backyard. With gas over $4 a gallon, that’s a pretty good deal.”

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