Vancouver Park Board losing in struggle to reduce Canada geese population

·3 min read
Canada geese have become a nuisance around Vancouver, where park board officials are carrying out an egg addling program to keep their population under control. (Rafferty Baker/CBC - image credit)
Canada geese have become a nuisance around Vancouver, where park board officials are carrying out an egg addling program to keep their population under control. (Rafferty Baker/CBC - image credit)

It's a two-person job — one to move the Canada goose off the nest with a rod, another to quickly grab the eggs, replacing them with others that have been treated to ensure they don't produce new goslings. Protective gear is worn, including something like a hockey mask.

It's a practice called addling, and Vancouver Park Board staff have been doing it for more than a decade. But despite their efforts, the Canada goose population in Vancouver has continued to grow and continued to create a nuisance.

The park board is looking for tips from the public to locate more nests, especially those on private property, so staff can get to more eggs before they hatch.

"We can easily access most of the nests on public property, but there are many nests on private property — on rooftops and balconies and other places that are difficult to access," said Dana McDonald, environmental stewardship co-ordinator with the park board.

McDonald said staff with the addling program have visited about 100 nests this season so far, swapping out between 500 and 600 eggs. There are different ways to sterilize the eggs, but for the park board program, they're frozen.

Dillon Hodgin/CBC
Dillon Hodgin/CBC

She said that for the program to have the desired impact on the local goose population, it would need to addle the eggs of 30 to 50 per cent of the nests in Vancouver. McDonald doesn't know how many nests there are, but she said the 100 they've found is well below the number they need to visit.

Canada geese typically migrate, but in Vancouver, there's enough food and reasonable weather to allow most of the geese to stay year-round.

There hasn't been a proper count since 2016, according to McDonald, but at that time, there were about 3,000 birds.

"We do know that the number of geese in Vancouver is higher than we want it to be, but we don't know by how much," said McDonald, adding that it's believed the population has continued to grow since 2016.

Rafferty Baker/CBC
Rafferty Baker/CBC

A contractor is now undertaking a study of the Vancouver goose population, which will lead to a staff report and action plan that will be presented to park board commissioners late this year or in early 2023.

McDonald expects the report to result in renewed action on the goose issue next spring.

"It's possible a cull could be a suggestion that comes out of the action plan, then a decision to move forward with that would rest with commissioners," she said.

Poopy problem

According to McDonald, there are a few reasons Canada geese have become a problem in Vancouver.

They eat freshly seeded lawns, which can be expensive to replace, they root around irrigation heads, damaging them and creating tripping hazards, and in large numbers, they displace native wildlife.

But the most obvious issue is the droppings. They poop every 12 minutes, said McDonald, which affects beaches, pathways, sports fields, and other places that would otherwise be delightful for a picnic. In some places, the volume of feces ends up polluting the water.

"They can be a nuisance, yes."

Rafferty Baker/CBC
Rafferty Baker/CBC

She said the park board addling program has the support of the B.C. SPCA, as well as PETA, and gets federal permits each year to carry it out.

McDonald asks anyone who is aware of a nest in Vancouver to call 311, email geese@vancouver.ca or submit a report online.

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