Protecting Lake Wildlife

SAMLARC’s stewardship of the Lago Santa Margarita includes not only the water itself, but also the environment that makes the Lake a beautiful ecosystem – including the waterfowl population. The majority of waterfowl around the Lake have already mated and hatched their young for this year. The parents are teaching their offspring which food sources are safe and how to engage with other animals. These young birds are also learning how to interact with humans – at the detriment of the bird population as a whole.

Due to visitors’ repeated feeding of the waterfowl, despite SAMLARC rules and general wildlife practices, the ducks and geese at the Lake have learned that humans are reliable food sources. Some Lake visitors may see birds flocking around humans who feed them (regardless of the nutritional value) or becoming aggressive when the food runs out (or when their territory is threatened). This learned behavior is reinforced when humans continue to feed the birds. Canada Geese, in particular, have excellent memory skills and are the most dominant birds around the lakeshore.

Over the years, more and more Canada Geese have decided to inhabit the Lake because they recognize that humans will feed them. The consequences of overpopulation have negatively impacted the Lake’s ecosystem and SAMLARC resources. SAMLARC must pay vendors to remove fecal matter from the Lake and Lagoon as well as adjust landscape and water services to account for bird nesting and mating aggression.

The Board of Directors recognizes the necessity of wildlife stewardship at the Lake. In 2021, SAMLARC began implementing strategies to discourage Canada Geese from overpopulating the Lakeshore, Beach Club, & SAMLARC Parks. Tools include a combination of decoys, lights, & chasing devices (none of which cause physical harm) targeted exclusively at Canada Geese. Mission Viejo Animal Services has reviewed these tools and has confirmed that this program follows all laws and ordinances as it relates to migrating waterfowl. The implementation began in early 2021, before nesting season, to help the birds learn that the Lake is not an appropriate nesting location. Thanks to these early interventions, the number of geese has significantly diminished and the strain on the ecosystem is visibly equalizing.

The Board’s goal in managing the Lago Santa Margarita is to provide a well-maintained amenity for Members, while also appropriately caring for the ecosystem. As the population of Canada Geese has decreased, Members have reported clearer Lake water, a cleaner Lagoon, healthier landscaping, and more diversity in the wildlife population. SAMLARC will continue to utilize its deterrence tools to maintain a balanced population.