'Responsible' dog owners will be able to let their canines off-leash during low usage and off-peak hours at Midland parks in an effort to scare problematic Canadian geese that harass people and pollute the environment.
A motion was passed at last night’s committee of the whole meeting to amend an animal control bylaw, which prohibited dogs from being off-leash at all times. The new amendment allows 'responsible' owners to unleash their dogs during the following low-usage hours in Midland parks: Between the hours of 5 to 8 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. from April 1 to September 30; and between the hours of 5 to 9 a.m, and 7 to 10 p.m. from October 1 to March 30 annually.
The staff report entitled Goose Management Framework was discussed by council with the primary focus of dialogue being safety concerns, for dogs as well as small children and the vulnerable.
Coun. Cher Cunningham was the most vocal in asking whether the off-leash recommendation was a necessary component for geese management.
Operations manager Dylan Flannery spoke to safety concerns, based on his own background and experience, which includes working at New York City's Central Park.
“I’ve come from a park that saw 46 million visitors per year,” said Flannery. “I spent about five years there. In that time, I cannot recall a single safety concern with a dog off-leash and a resident.
“I can recall several instances,” he added, “of geese having safety concerns with small children.”
Flannery went on to state that the specified low usage hours didn’t see a lot of small children in the parks.
Mayor Stewart Strathearn took particular note of the differences between ‘resident’ geese like the aggressive Canada goose, and migratory ‘transient’ geese like the smaller and similar-looking Cackling goose. He shared an anecdote regarding his former neighbour, 2004 Order of Canada member Harry Lumsden, an ornithologist who helped to restore the Canadian geese population after their rediscovery in the 1960s.
“I know Harry very well,” mused Strathearn. “He worked two doors down from me in Natural Resources. And I would say that Harry is one of the most loathed men on the globe.
"I know people in St. Anne’s, England, who absolutely hate Canada geese because nobody can go near their swimming pools and ponds, because we would capture them and (whisk them off) to places like England.”
Strathearn went on to request that staff focus their efforts on dealing with the resident geese rather than the transient ones.
Council further approved the recommendation of a versatile attachment for town maintenance vehicles that could be dragged behind to collect goose excrement in the parklands, at a cost between $15,000 to $30,000. As supply for the attachments is low due to the pandemic, according to Flannery, acquiring the machinery would probably happen in spring of 2022 which could align with a town budget at that time.
In addition to the off-leash measures recommended by staff, the motion also approved signage in the four parks, which state that the feeding of geese is prohibited, and that town staff apply for permits with Canadian Wildlife Services for the relevant legislation.
The motion was carried with Coun. Cunningham as the sole opposed vote.
Council meetings can be seen on Rogers TV Cable 53, and livestreamed on their website where an archive of all meetings can be found.
Derek Howard, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, MidlandToday.ca