These geese were photographed in Parksville Community Park in February.

Parksville culls 484 geese

Mayor is taking heat from some residents, but he says many other methods to control goose population have been tried over the years

Mayor Marc Lefebvre says Parksville has tried every other way to control what he calls an “over-population” of Canada geese in the city.

On Sunday, the latest step in the goose management strategy swung into action — 484 birds that were molting and unable to fly were captured in the Englishman River estuary, taken to a tennis court at a nearby resort and killed when a bolt gun was fired into their skulls.

Members of the K’omoks First Nation then cut breast meat out of some of the birds. Lefebvre said offers made to local First Nations were declined.

“The remaining carcasses were disposed of according to animal disposal guidelines and may be used to help feed other birds like hawks and eagles held at wildlife rehabilitation centres,” said a news release from the city.

Despite taking some heat from residents before and after the cull on Sunday, Lefebvre was unapologetic on Tuesday.

“The geese have been a problem in Parksville for several years, to the point where they’ve just about destroyed our estuary,” said the mayor. “We simply have too many geese and a lot of them don’t go anywhere (migrate).”

Lefebvre said the city has been dealing with “excessive feces” from the geese for years, fouling ball fields and the beach.

5,000 — the same amount of money spent on the cull this year — in one summer employing goose-poop scoopers.

The Capital Regional District spent more than $31,000 in 2015 on a goose cull in Victoria, but managed to kill only 43 birds — that’s $725 a goose. Parksville spent about $72 a bird on Sunday.

The mayor said “it’s not out of the realm of possibility” that excessive amount of goose feces in the waters of Parksville Bay could one day create an e coli concern and force the closure of the city’s biggest attraction, its world-famous beach.

Lefebvre also said the city has tried different goose-control methods in the past, including the use of dogs and an egg-addling program.

“We’ve done egg-addling until the cows came home and that wasn’t successful,” he said.

In June of 2015, city council adopted in principle, the recommendations contained in the Goose Management Strategy for the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region as prepared by the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries Society and directed staff to implement a cull program in 2016, as well as other goose-management initiatives. The strategy outlines in detail the data collection over five years undertaken by the Guardians to support the report’s recommendations, according to a news release from the city.

On Sunday, the city said a total of 484 geese were captured and killed “in a humane manner according to Environment Canada and the Canadian Wildlife Services best practices for Canada goose management and standard operating procedures developed by the province of B.C. and approved by the B.C. Wildlife Chief Veterinarian. The B.C. Wildlife Chief Veterinarian was onsite to oversee the process and tested all geese for avian flu.”

The City of Parksville said it and the Guardians received permits from the following:

• Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations, West Coast Region —  to hunt, trap or kill Canada goose during the open or closed season as the regional manager considers it necessary for the proper management of the wildlife resource.

• Environment Canada — letter of authorization to conduct damage or danger permit activities on private property (Parksville Qualicum Wildlife Management Area and all lands within); and a letter of authorization to conduct damage or danger permit activities on private property (Englishman River Estuary/Nature Trust of British Columbia); and a Migratory Bird Damage or Danger Permit.

• Permission from Surfside RV Resort Ltd. to access the property to undertake the cull.

• Canadian Wildlife Service and Environment Canada — for the collection, destruction and disposal of eggs and the removal and destruction of nests for the purpose of encouraging migratory birds to relocate elsewhere.

The Migratory Birds Regulations do not allow donation of birds to another person or entity, including permit nominees.

“The city wishes to thank the Guardians of the Mid-Island Estuaries Society and the many volunteers who participated in the cull,” said Tuesday’s news release. “Over time, less year-round resident geese will help to restore the degradation and overgrazing along the estuary channel and also less risk to human and animal health.”

The mayor was asked if the cull was a one-time event or if the city will consider another cull next year. Lefebvre said the city will see what effect this cull has had before making a decision on future action. “It’s too early to tell,” he said.

— Also see EDITORIAL in the Opinion section of this website and on page A10 of the Thursday, June 30 edition of The NEWS

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