Canada geese. They’ve been a modern success story for wildlife management — right up to the time when they became too successful.
That’s certainly the case in Central Saanich where this year a pilot program to cull up to 300 of the iconic birds took place in the last week of June and the first week of July.
“We’re not quite certain of how many birds were taken during the cull, but we authorized up to 300. We’re just awaiting the final report on the process and its relative success,” said Ryan Windsor, Mayor of Central Saanich.
The geese have now completed molting and the time for a cull has passed. “You have to get them while they are molting…while they are flightless … it’s really the only time that it can happen.”
While Canada geese were once in serious decline, the actions of various wildlife agencies and governments have caused a rapid and significant increase in their numbers which are now estimated at nearly six million in North America.
In Canada, they are protected under the Migratory Birds Convention Act, although in recent years the Canadian Wildlife Service has issued special permits to use acceptable detent techniques like the removal of potential nesting sites, egg sterilization or, as was the case in Central Saanich, the direct culling of birds.
“The geese have become very destructive,” said Windsor. “They foul our parks and waterways, and the damage that they do to crops can be very significant. That’s especially important in municipalities like ours where agriculture still plays an important role in the economy.”
Part of the problem, according to Jeff Lynka, Parks Supervisor for the City of Penticton, is that the geese that are the greatest nuisance are the descendants of geese re-introduced to B.C. in the 1960s and 1970s.
Those geese were brought into the region as eggs and goslings and had no natural parents to teach them to migrate. As a result, they simply stay in place, becoming an ever increasing problem.
“In the Okanagan, in 2005, several municipalities got together to address it as a regional problem,” said Lynka. “Every municipality also has its own plan but we try to coordinate as much as possible.”
That’s the approach that Windsor hopes to see on the Peninsula and in Greater Victoria. “
The CRD Planning Committee recently heard all the information on wildlife management,” said Windsor. “That included not only Canada geese but other nuisance species like beaver and a few others.”
The hope is that the CRD will establish a Wildlife Management Service as part of its operation to provide a coordinated and consistent approach to the management of these species.
“I’ll be pressing hard for a regional solution to this problem,” said Windsor. “It’s not just an issue for Central Saanich … it’s something we all have to deal with. It’s important that we do it right.”