When Jim Estess talks of ducks and geese, he knows whereof he speaks. Estess, who moved to Pine two years ago, lived in Oregon for 25 years the past 17 near Eugene, home of the University of Oregon Ducks.
"They are a protected animal in Oregon, and if you harass or deliberately harm a duck, you don't want to do it in Eugene," Estess said. "If you run one over, you better be able to prove it's an accident, because otherwise, the fine is horrendous."
Estess, who has joined the fight to save the ducks and geese at Green Valley Park, grew up with waterfowl and has "raised them at every opportunity since."
"When I was a small child living in Chico, Calif., I won a duck named Henry at the state fair," he said. "Of course, it turned out to be Henrietta."
Estess addressed the Payson Town Council at the Sept. 27 meeting where the council voted unanimously to thin the flock of ducks at Green Valley by some 30 birds. He was incredulous at what passed for fact that night including claims from nearby residents that the birds could cause outbreaks of e. coli and salmonella.
"Diseases are possible, but not probable," he said. "I could win the lottery too, but it's not probable. I've never personally heard of single instance of salmonella, and e. coli is a lot more prevalent in chickens than in ducks. Unless you're going to take a duck egg out of its nest and fry it without using normal sanitary precautions, the odds just aren't very good."
Duck and goose droppings are another source of disease, according to local waterfowl foes. Estess said don't believe it.
"If you drop your sandwich in it, then you take your chances," he said. "Otherwise, I wouldn't give it a second thought. My wife and kids walk and play at Green Valley Park, and I'm not concerned in the least."
Joe Yarchin, Urban Wildlife Specialist for the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, confirms Estess' information.
"Usually when I call the health department, I'm told you have to be knee-deep in droppings in an enclosed area before it becomes an issue and then it's an issue and not a problem," Yarchin said. "It's more when you are constantly cleaning up droppings in an enclosed area and they become airborne that you need to be concerned."
Estess also dismisses the complaints park neighbors have about quacking and honking into the wee hours of the night.
"Geese like to sleep at night, just like people do," he said. "They go to bed at sundown, sleep with their heads curled under their wings, and float like a cork. They only honk if they're disturbed, and they only do it to warn one another or to try to frighten off a predator."
Estess said he owned property that bordered the Fern Ridge Reservoir some 10 miles outside Eugene.
"It was a sanctuary for Canadian geese. Twice a year, hundreds of thousands of them would land on the lake and in my back yard. I eventually had to move away, but it wasn't the geese that drove me out. It was," he said, rolling his eyes, "the shotgun blasts from hunters."
Estess believes the local duck and geese detractors are ignoring two very positive waterfowl attributes.
"They're intelligent and they protect," he said.
Around the University of Oregon, they have created special duck lanes and crossings and, believe it or not, Estess said, the majority of the ducks use them. Somebody originally trained a few to do it, and ducks follow like sheep.
"It's pretty comical, but they do," he said.
Estess also said he never had to worry about snakes in Oregon.
"One day I looked out the window and two ganders were killing a four-foot rattler. They just mangled it."
But he said geese are not, by nature, the mean animals they were portrayed to be in a recent letter that appeared in the newspaper.
"Ducks and geese are like other living things," he said. "I've had geese that were as lovable as a kitten, and I've had geese that were mean.
"Actually I like the mean ones, because they make great watchdogs. They're not afraid of anything.
"In rattlesnake country, I see that as a big benefit.
"But as far as a goose attacking someone walking down the sidewalk, that would be extremely rare. They're not predators of people. If you're feeding the ducks, the geese will certainly let you know they are there, but they won't attack you."
Through raising geese, Estess learned a rudimentary form of communication.
"You could tell by the tone (of the honking) what the problem was. They'd honk one way if somebody was about to pull in the driveway, another if the pony had gotten loose."
Estess said the town needs to realize that if you are going to create bodies of water, you are going to have waterfowl.
"Virtually every place you find water, you find ducks and geese," he said including parks, golf courses and schoolyards throughout the Valley.
"In a lot of those places there are more than five per acre-foot (the maximum waterfowl density recommended by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish), and there are kids and people around them all the time. They just aren't a problem."