Vancouver Island farmland, recreation spots and ecological reserves are being strained by too many of the country’s namesake birds.
The Capital Regional District has a large proportion of the estimated year-round Canada geese population, with Island-wide numbers ranging up to 15,000. The geese were growing by 16 per cent annually between 1977 and 1997, but more recent surveys – utilizing helicopters, drones and kayaks – found the goose population is doubling about every four years.
The Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society (GoMIES) were tasked by the CRD to conduct those recent population studies and bring a long-term mitigation plan forward.
“Regionally overabundant Canada geese are an ongoing concern in the CRD as they degrade coastal ecosystems, water quality, and public health and have a negative economic effect on local businesses, farms, parks, health agencies and airport authorities,” states a draft goose action plan.
Surveys from 2020 and 2021 identified the Sooke Basin, Esquimalt Lagoon, the southeast of Victoria and Oak Bay, and the Saanich Peninsula’s east coast as hotspots for moulting geese.
The too-abundant geese are impacting thousands of acres of farmland as they’re fouling, damaging and removing crops, GoMIES found.
The draft action plan calls for a review of municipal bylaws around shooting geese in areas where discharging firearms can be “safely implemented.” At least one Central Saanich farm has received federal permits to shoot the geese outside of hunting season, according to GoMIES.
With no coordinated strategy in place, the CRD says most local governments, farmers and large landowners are resorting to “hazing” – deterring geese with dogs, noise or lights – to mitigate the birds’ impact.
While hazing is reducing bird feces where they congregate, GoMIES said it does nothing to reduce populations in the long-term and it’s likely contributing to pushing the geese onto small islands just off Greater Victoria’s shore.
Several of those islands, like ones off of Oak Bay, are protected ecological reserves. The geese nesting there are damaging natural ecosystems on those islands and could put their ecological reserve status at risk, the GoMIES said.
The overpopulated geese are also impacting environmentally sensitive areas in other parts of the CRD as their foraging is putting pressure on native flora and fauna, the draft plan said. Some other issues identified relate to safety, public health and water quality issues.
The draft geese action plan states a methodical, multi-jurisdictional and comprehensive addling program would control the goose population growth.
CRD crews addled 1,298 eggs in 241 active nests across the south Island in 2021. The CRD board will be receiving options on what to do about the birds and it’s recommended that staff come back with cost estimates for implementing the plan.
Since Canada geese are a federally protected species, mitigation measures must first be approved by the Canada Wildlife Service.
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