After years of unsuccessful attempts at quelling its Canada geese population, the city of Denver has approved a new catch-and-kill method.

Thousands of the waterfowl will be corralled from Colorado city’s parks and killed this summer under a new initiative that aims to reduce the number of geese from an estimated 5,000 annually.

Some of them are now destined for local kitchens. The meat from the executed birds will be processed and served by an anonymous organization for needy families, according to city officials. Ironically, the initiative began on Canada Day.

In a now-deleted tweet, Denver Parks and Recreation said they were working with the United States Department of Agriculture to determine whether meat is suitable for donation instead of “relying on a landfill.” A report by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says culling geese for human consumption is an acceptable final option and that there is “no evidence in the literature” to suggest Canada geese from parks or golf courses are unfit for human consumption.

The initiative is shocking some Colorado residents. For animal rights activist Ellen Kessler, who has lived in the Denver metropolitan area for 40 years, the program amounts to a “massacre.”

“I was livid. I was furious,” she said in an interview with “Quite a few people have walked around these parks since the massacre. There are a few [geese] left over. But it’s not the same.”

Kessler even started an online petition that has been signed more than 800 times to get deputy parks director Scott Gilmore fired for “slaughtering” the city’s geese. In a local interview, Gilmore called the corralling and killing a “rodeo,” which particularly upset Kessler. Many are also complaining of a lack of transparency in the decision to launch the program.

A CPR News article published on Tuesday detailed a Monday morning culling:

“The molting birds were helpless to fly from their fate, and some hissed or honked at the workers, but all eventually found themselves trapped against temporary fencing on shore, packing in so closely that the birds climbed atop each other. At least one tried fruitlessly to squeeze through narrow openings in the fencing.”

The initiative comes after years of a “multi-strategy approach” to make enough geese uncomfortable that they leave Denver. Parks officials tried “egg oiling,” in which 100 per cent grade corn oil is sprayed on goose eggs. The oils blocks air passages so embryos can’t develop. In 2008, fewer than 200 eggs were sprayed, but last year, more than 3,000 were oiled.

The city has also implemented a machine called the “Goosinator” to frighten the birds out of parks. The remote-controlled glider zooms across ice and is painted brightly with a menacing cartoon face.

“The machine makes a noise that is undesirable to geese and chases the geese away from turf, water, snow, and ice,” according to Denver Parks and Recreation. But the agency doesn’t have the resources to deploy it as often as would be necessary, according to a June report.

Large populations of geese cause a number of purported problems for residents and municipal staff, including safety hazards for vehicles, aggressive behaviour towards pedestrians, over-grazing of vegetation, and the accumulation of feces.

The problems aren’t enough for activists like Kessler. “There are a lot of people that say ‘Thank goodness you’re killing all these geese,’ ‘I don’t like to step in poop in my $200 shoes,’” she said. “There are so many ways to get around this than just killing them.”