Published: 10:00, 24 October 2019
| Updated: 10:17, 24 October 2019
A council has come under fire for blasting geese with lasers - to stop them tearing up flowers.
Council workers in Bexley are using the green rays to scare away migrating Canada geese from parks in a bid to stop the huge birds destroying new flowerbeds.
Hall Place, a stately Tudor home and gardens in Bexley, is one of the sites being targeted, much to the annoyance of animal rights campaigners and charities.
Bexley Council claims "a large influx" of the animals are damaging riverbanks, flowerbeds and harming other wildlife.
Previously the local authority encouraged the birds by selling feed at the site but this year, after a £600k investment in the beauty spot and a spike in the number of geese, it's cracked down.
The RSPCA has slammed the method, which may cause animals to suffer eyesight issues or other harmful side-effects.
A spokesperson said: “As with humans, we would not support shining a laser directly into an animal’s eye.
“However, we are aware that the indirect use of lasers to deter problem flocks of birds is one of the non-lethal deterrent methods that is currently being tested by researchers.
“If that approach is proven to be effective and humane, the RSPCA would certainly welcome it.”
A petition has been set up in opposition to the controversial measure which has so far gained almost 500 signatures.
The petition's founder, Donna Zimmer, said: “Countless visitors have enjoyed observing and photographing the geese with their goslings over the years.
"I've lived in Bexley all my life. I've always enjoyed being brought up to Hall Place to go and see the geese.
"I have three children of my own and they've all had the same experience.
"I've not objected to any of their plans, but you can have the geese too."
Amarjeet - a photographer who visits the park several times a week - was at Hall Place last week with her mum when she was disturbed by some “distressing” noises.
“We walked by the bridge and there were two geese there. I carried on walking past them, taking a lot of photos and standing around.
“Suddenly we heard an almighty commotion which made us turn around. There was quite a distressing noise and initially I couldn’t work out what it was.
“It was kind of like something had really spooked them. I turned to my Mum and said, ‘What’s making that noise?'
“Then, when I looked, there was a gentleman shining a green laser at the geese, at which point they took off very quickly.
"They were low to the ground and they were trying to get away quite quickly.”
Amarjeet, from Dartford, Kent, a long-time visitor of the park, said she did not see any more geese during her visit, which she thought was unusual for Hall Place.
“We’ve been going there for years. It’s part of visiting there. You know the geese are going to be there.
“No birds or other wildlife were harmed by its use, it simply moves the geese on and they migrate back at a later date." - Bexley Council
“They’ve never caused us a problem.”
Although the effects of lasering are not fully known, Amarjeet said she believed the geese were distressed by the laser.
A Bexley Council spokeswoman said: “This year Hall Place has experienced a large influx of geese and they were damaging the river bank, the flower beds and discouraging other forms of wildlife to flourish.
“Their waste also caused a mess and a slip hazard around the grounds and paths and - when walked in - to the house and visitor centre café.
“On occasion a handheld laser device has been used by a trained member of staff as a humane method of moving on the geese.
“No birds or other wildlife were harmed by its use, it simply moves the geese on and they migrate back at a later date.
“By reducing their visits to the site in this way the balance has been bought to a more manageable level.”
She added wildlife at Hall Place and Gardens is “a very important part of what we do” and is encouraged by the Council.