Death sentences may be the only way to stop the destruction of the Englishman River estuary by Canada geese, Parksville city council heard this week.
Tim Clermont and John Cooper of a group called the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries appeared before council Monday night, asking for $8,000 to continue their addling program and to develop a management strategy. The group was granted $25,000 by council three years ago for roughly the same tasks.
Cooper said the the geese — not native to the area but introduced here in the 1970s — are “causing tremendous destruction of our local estuaries. The Englishman has been hit really hard.”
Cooper explained, and showed photographic evidence, of the habitat destroyed by the geese and spoke about its effect on native species, including salmon.
The addling program — basically shaking the eggs in their nests and making them sterile while often having to fend off angry geese parents — has had positive effects in other areas like the Little Qualicum River estuary, but not the Englishman.
“I don’t understand how we can addle the amount of eggs we have and still have more and more geese in the (Englishman) estuary,” said Clermont.
The Guardians said their goals are to get the goose population stabilized so they can work to restore the estuary.
“It’s going to be difficult to bring the numbers down without some sort of a cull,” said Cooper, an ornithologist.
Coun. Al Greir weighed in.
“Many Parksville residents are very frustrated with the present situation,” said Greir. “Here we are three years later with too many geese. It’s hurting our parks.”
“You have said culling is the best option, so why don’t we cull them?”
A cull would require a permit from the federal Ministry of Environment — Canada geese have special protection.
“I think the city and the Regional District of Nanaimo are in a position to go to Environment Canada and get a permit and cull some birds,” said Cooper. “It’s not the Guardians that need to lead that process.”
Cooper also said many other communities in southern B.C. have been dealing with Canada geese issues for years. He said killing the birds through a cull has been a difficult decision for many communities because they are “afraid to do anything significant because of the backlash from the public.”
Council made no decision Monday night on applying for a cull. Council also referred the Guardians’ request for $8,000 to its budget deliberations.