They eat crops, cause damage to estuary areas, drop their leavings in parks and fields and they’re not going anywhere soon.
Since 2010, the Capital Regional District has partnered with member municipalities, the Victoria Airport Authority and other groups effected by the presence of these resident trouble-makers, to develop a strategy to reduce their impact.
They are Canada geese, and they don’t migrate. They stick around the region — as well as in other places up and down Vancouver Island — since they were introduced here in the 1960s and ‘70s for wildlife viewing and hunting opportunities. Normally, Canada geese will migrate each year. According to a draft regional Canada goose management strategy, approximately 5,000 of them simply won’t leave.
As a result, says Jenette Lovey, manager of park operations for CRD Regional Parks and the lead on the strategy, farms, waterways and parks are being adversely affected. She presented the draft report to Central Saanich council Sept. 17.
“If left unmanaged, this situation is not sustainable,” she said, pointing out the population of resident Canada geese will continue to rise.
“The focus (of the strategy) is really on mitigating the impact they’re having on the natural environment — and on parks, farmers and schools.”
That impact has been front-and-centre for Central Saanich mayor Alastair Bryson. He said he has been hearing from a lot of farmers who have lost crops to the geese.
“Frustration is growing,” he said. “Right now, management is left to individual farms. The geese are preventing some crops from being planted in Central Saanich.”
Bryson said he’s hoping for some strong management recommendations coming out of this report.
Loveys said the strategy looks to reduce the damage caused by the geese, but first identifies why they’re here, where they are and how the population is growing. Volunteers with various birding groups have been counting the geese since 2010 and the CRD hired a consultant to collect the data, make on-site visits to farms and to meet with federal and provincial regulatory bodies.
Kate Hagmar of EBB Environmental Consulting said there has been substantial agricultural damage in the region, as the geese turn to non-traditional food sources. They continue to stay here, she said, due to the man-made habitats that allow it — parks, holding ponds and more. Part of the strategy, she continued, will be to educate landowners and residents on ways to prevent geese from making a permanent home on their property.
That, however, could simply push the geese from one area to another. And killing them is only a last resort.
“(The Canadian Wildlife Service) is responsible for the management of migratory birds,” Hagmar said, adding it’s illegal to kill Canada geese. “Our response to this issue has to show we’ve taken all other possible actions first.”
Some of those options include modifying habitat areas to make them less desirable, hazing or scaring away the geese, relocating them or taking measure to control the population — from egg addling to hunting them in a managed goose kill.
The latter option is a last resort, said Lovey. Should all other management techniques fail, there would have to be discussion on how to use a cull properly, if at all. She added this strategy is a long-term plan and nothing will happen overnight.
For now, the strategy is in a draft form and Lovey is taking it to municipalities and other interested parties who have been part of paying for the report. Already, Lovey said education is the key this early in the process, adding the CRD encourages landowners to consult with the Canadian Wildlife Service to make their property unattractive to geese.
The draft strategy will make the rounds to its stakeholders this month and next, and there will be a public information session held by the CRD by mid-October (date not yet announced).
Feedback from all parties, Lovey said, will be incorporated into the strategy.
From there, she said it will take the collective will of its stakeholders to put the resources into making it happen.