EDITORIAL: Quite a fowl 2016

Arguably the two biggest news stories of 2016 were about birds

As we sit around the house this week, watching Team Canada kick some world junior butt, we can’t help but reflect on some of the biggest stories of 2016 and think about what might make news in 2017.

This year was the year of the bird in Parksville Qualicum Beach. If they could speak, we’re sure the birds in question would point to 2016 as their annus horribilis.

OK, parrots can kind of speak, but you know what we mean. Back to them later.

The City of Parksville took a lot of heat, both locally and nationally, when it killed 484 Canada geese in June.

Mayor Marc Lefebvre was, and is, unapologetic. He believes the city had done everything it could short of slaughter to correct the goose problem here. And what was that problem? Well, that’s up for debate, but Lefebvre was confident with the science he had that showed the geese were destroying the Englishman River estuary, potentially fouling the stream’s ability to nurture young salmon.

Salmon, you see, are more important than geese. And there’s some validity to that when one considers the thousands of years salmon have been an important food source in these parts for people, animals and the forest.

These geese, we were told, are an introduced species to the Island, nuisance interlopers. They foul our parks and beaches and golf courses. Now, that sure sounds like a First World problem, but there is some science to suggest feces from geese could carry diseases that could harm people and maybe even shut down the beach.

Still, the images of geese, one by one until the dead bodies totalled 484, getting the bolt-gun treatment on a tarped-in tennis court are enduring.

Up the road in Coombs, 600 or more birds needed a home after the closure of the Coombs World Parrot Refuge, not long after the death of their patron and champion, Wendy Huntbatch. News outlets across the country also jumped on this story, and eventually a volunteer organization and the City of Nanaimo stepped up to provide sanctuary for many of the birds.

What’s ahead in 2017? We expect something is going to give, one way or another, with the Island Corridor Foundation. And we have a provincial election, which always causes great debate and consternation.

As for 2016, it was for the birds.

— Editorial by John Harding

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