Geese are top of mind in Central Saanich

Central Saanich to follow CRD discussion on wildlife issues and crop impacts.

Geese have farmers’ dander up.

At Central Saanich’s town hall meeting at Brentwood Bay’s Cultural Centre recently, resident Pamela Fox asked for an update on local efforts to manage problem wildlife in Central Saanich.

She specifically wanted to know what steps are being taken to manage deer and Canada geese.

Mayor and Central Saanich council’s director on the board of the Capital Regional District, Ryan Windsor, said in respect to deer, the CRD was questioned about a pilot program in Oak Bay and whether they were going to take on deer as part of a wildlife management service.

“The CRD is trying to establish whether or not it’s going to take on wildlife management as a judicial service,” Windsor explained. “Every time the CRD takes on a service, there’s always some feelings about what potential ramifications of that are.

“It’s been quite clear to date that it doesn’t want to take on deer.”

Windsor said there have been no other attempts to manage the deer population beyond Oak Bay’s pilot program and from the CRD’s perspective, the deer issue may have to come back to the council’s table early in the new year.

“The negative publicity that came out of Oak Bay, it migrated across the region and the CRD basically now has said ‘we’re not sure we want to get into this,’” he said.

Geese however are a different situation. Windsor said he championed a local cull of geese this past summer, as the community faces problem wildlife destroying farm crops.

“They don’t migrate, so they’re here year ‘round … they’re here during the critical time for farmers where farmers are planting crops. We understand that. The question to date is to whether or not the program the CRD ran this summer is an effective methodology.”

Windsor said around 45 geese were killed and a lot of focus afterwards was placed on the cost. The overall cost of the cull was around $18,000, he said, adding people went on to calculate that the cost per goose was $725. He pointed out the cost ratio wasn’t necessarily the focus, because the pilot program wasn’t designed to identify cost per head. Rather it was designed to decide if this was an effective method.

Windsor said there are people around the CRD board table that would like to see the regional government have some role in wildlife management, possibly at a facilitation level. This, said the mayor, is still under discussion.

“We expect to see before the board in the new year, a sort of second look at how the CRD might facilitate amongst the regions and municipalities to better harmonize regulations for crop protection permits, or farmers themselves handling geese. And then also whether or not there’s an additional piece to that about the CRD actually playing active management. That is not yet established.”

He added this will necessitate a vote of the board, probably next February or March, if all things proceed as planned.

Councillor Alicia Cormier said work was done a year ago on geese management and she wants to hear how this season has been and where the province stands on wildlife management issues like this.

“I think its important to acknowledge that we’ve … not had our local agricultural advisory committee in place and (were not) able to sort of advise us of any concerns,” she said. “I haven’t heard anything at the council table recently about any concerns and I think we’ll be confirming the ongoing nature of that committee and I think that will help.”

Windsor said the CRD wants to be more of a facilitator in harmonizing the regulations in regard to the geese.

“Is it something farmers need to bring to the attention of Central Saanich or now that there are plans for an agriculture advisory committee, could they bring it to them and then it be carried to Central Saanich?” he asked.

“It never hurts to have a voice … in Central Saanich but even more so with the CRD as we’re considering these things,” he continued. “If a small group can delegate authority and come and make a presentation, it helps enormously to guide the board in making a decision that’s best for the region.”

Approval of the District’s new agriculture advisory committee is still in process.