Spring in Vancouver can be a beautiful time … if you let the cherry blossoms overhead distract you from the piles of goose droppings underfoot.
‘Tis that time of year when Canada geese are seemingly everywhere. To help combat a booming population of the birds, the Vancouver Park Board is asking residents to report nests so staff can switch out viable goose eggs for frozen duds — a process known as addling.
Hoping to target eggs, the board is asking people to identify the location of any nests they find, which can often be spotted around nearby homes or even on roofs. Reporting can be done by calling 311 or sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
According to the park board, the birds have no natural predators, and the population is booming. Compared to other species, they produce a lot of excrement for their size and defecate on average every 12 minutes.
Not only do their droppings create slipping hazards, Canada geese also wreck fields and lawns by munching on new grass, dig holes around sprinkler heads to access water, pollute beaches and pools and destroy juvenile salmon habitat by eating sedge grass in local estuaries.
They can also act out aggressively at people and pets.
The board says addling is “one of the most humane methods of population control,” and once swapped, the goose settles back on the nest, eventually leaving when the eggs fail to hatch.
“This is the only way to do it,” said Tony Williams, a biology professor at Simon Fraser University.
Dana McDonald, the environmental stewardship co-ordinator with the Vancouver Park Board, says staff are trained to addle cautiously without upsetting the nesting geese.
She adds the dud eggs are real goose eggs which were frozen from the previous nesting season.
“It disturbs them a minor amount because, in nature, they’re likely to have unsuccessful clutches,” said McDonald.
Williams said the best way to truly curb the population is to have a regionally-co-ordinated, long-term plan as new geese will continue to move into the same territories.
Metro Vancouver, the governing body overseeing regional parks across the Lower Mainland, says it does not currently have any programs aimed at reducing the Canada goose population.
A spokesperson for Metro Vancouver said in an email that park visitors should not feed, disturb or approach the birds.
McDonald says her team is working on a management plan for the Vancouver Park Board with recommendations that highlight the need to establish a regional body driving goose management.
She says Vancouver Island’s Capital Regional District is a great example of 13 municipalities coming together to implement a comprehensive management plan.
“We understand that geese don’t recognize the jurisdictional boundaries between … [municipalities] in the Lower Mainland,” McDonald said.
‘Got it really good’
McDonald says Canada geese in the Metro Vancouver area arrived in the 1960s and 70s and never left.
“[They] moved from where they normally migrate to here, and the climate is quite mild … [after that] they didn’t re-establish migratory patterns,” she said, adding the issue with geese is amplified as they stay here all year round.
She says a lack of predators and an ideal habitat have helped the residential geese population flourish.
“The geese have got it really good … The population in the City of Vancouver is more successful and will grow more quickly than a population in a more rural area,” she said.
McDonald adds a pair of geese will have five to eight eggs a year, with the surviving goslings going on to have their own nests the following year.
“So each year that we don’t prevent those eggs from hatching is the year we will have additional mating pairs.”
Canada geese can live, on average, over 20 years. Each year, the federal government approves permits for culling and for using predators to scare away the geese.
According to the park board, addling is supported by the B.C. SPCA and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Park board staff are federally permitted to carry out the activity.