Officials are looking to capture Lake Tahoe's biggest polluters: Geese.
"That sewage spill last summer is nothing compared to what's happening with these geese," said USDA wildlife biologist Jack Spencer.
He said the bottom of Lake Tahoe is covered by up to 2 inches of goose feces.
A 10-pound Canada goose produces four pounds of nitrate- and phosphate-rich feces every day it waddles across the beaches, lawns and golf courses of Tahoe. The birds find refuge on the lake when they molt their primary wing feathers in spring and can't fly.
As they float, they send droppings at a rate of four to five times an hour straight into one of the most protected lakes in the country.
Spencer and other biologists from USDA Wildlife Services will trap Canada geese at several locations in Tahoe this morning, at the request of property owners and managers.
"We only work where we are wanted, where there is damage occuring," Spencer said.
They could capture between 50 and 400 geese, Spencer said. Two years ago, the department caught 300 geese in a 200-yard area.
The geese will be rounded up, innoculated for disease, and released to a wildlife management area in eastern Nevada. About 1 percent of juveniles may return, and about 15 percent of adults will return.
The birds are protected by the Federal Migratory Bird Act, but can be hunted. In recent years, rules have loosened to help cities address the birds in urban areas.
"Their population is exploding in urban areas across the U.S.," Spencer said.
The Tahoe roundup is part of a regionwide effort. The geese also pose a threat to jets flying in and out of the Reno Airport, Spencer said.
Canada geese have stopped migrating in a triangle that includes Tahoe, Reno and Carson City. Abundant food sources from turf landscaping has resulted in increased densities within that triangle.
"I guarantee you, in the old days, Lake Tahoe was just a stopover place," Spencer said.
Fifteen agencies are involved in the roundup, including the Humane Society, which will provide food for the captured birds.
Recently, parks officials on the North Shore began training dogs to chase the large birds off of beaches.
There are several other non-lethal deterrent devices. Internet sites offer products to place on lawns that will make grass taste bad to grazing geese. The sites also recommend using a decoy of a dead goose, combined with a noisemaker to convince the birds there is a predator in the area.
• A 10-pound Canada goose produces four pounds of excrement per day, doing so four to five time per hour
• Biologists have seen feces 2 inches thick at the bottom of some Tahoe bays
• Geese populations are rising in urban areas because of turf landscaping
• They are living longer, up to 30 years, because of increased food sources
- Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture