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Not much to do about geese: report

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Geese take cover from the heat in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park.

JOE BRYKSA / FREE PRESS FILES Enlarge Image

Geese take cover from the heat in long grass in the Tuxedo Business Park.

Winnipeg isn’t considered an easy tourist attraction but it’s not an issue with one group – Canada geese.

A new report from city hall found the local goose population is slowly increasing over the years.

And why not: Even though a growing number of Winnipeggers find the geese to be a nuisance, the report states that many people continue to feed them and make them feel welcome.

And, the city obligingly mows the grass around retention ponds to make their life easier.

Geese can be cute, especially when there is a parade of goslings, but motorists find then annoying when they are stuck in long line-ups caused when the birds cavalierly cross streets and major thoroughfares.

Many people enjoy seeing the geese on the city’s many ponds and feed them but others find the accompanying droppings a nuisance and worse. One of the worst areas is the St. Vital duck pond, where the walking path and much of the surrounding grass area is literally covered in goose poop.

"We’ll be opening a new $1-million pavilion at the St. Vital duck pond and I don’t want to see the facility ruined with goose droppings," Coun. Brian Mayes said.

The report was done at the request of the St. Vital councillor, who said the geese have become a nuisance at many areas across the city.

"I’ve had people suggest to me that we do a culling, controlled hunting, but I don’t think there is much public support for that," said Mayes, who chairs the protection and community services committee where the report will be presented next week.

While the comprehensive, 29-page report contains some recommendations for dealing with geese, the administration’s recommendation is to accept the report as information and do nothing.

The administrative report says that Winnipeg has become the perfect setting for geese. The city was already on the birds’ traditional migratory flyway. But as the city relied on storm retention ponds to accommodate suburban residential development, the ponds and the park-like settings that surround them became inviting locales for the geese.

"The availability of retention ponds for roosting at night, the absence of hunting within City limits, and the close proximity of agricultural fields for food has made the city attractive to migratory populations in the fall," the report states.

The city estimates the year-round goose population has increased from 2,000 in 1999 to 2,900 in 2013, based on counts taken at public retention ponds. The migratory population has remained stable during the same time period (even though there were large population increases in some of the intervening years), 120,700 in 1999; 120,900 in 2013.

The city is a partner in the Urban Goose Working Group, which removes goose eggs from nests along Kenaston Boulevard. The report says the egg removal could be expanded to other locations where the geese have become a nuisance to traffic.

The report found deterrent efforts have been mostly ineffective: local geese seem immune to almost all kinds of efforts. But the city’s deterrent efforts were modest, at best: setting up a fake coyote (which was stolen) and plastic owls on soccer posts. This didn’t work.

The city tried flying a kite with the image of an eagle but it was only flown for 30 minutes at a time, and also not effective.

Treating the grass with a chemical that geese find distasteful worked to a degree, but it’s expensive to purchase and then there additional costs to apply and must be reapplied after it rains.

In addition, the city found that deterrent efforts, when they did work, usually just moved the geese to another location. And, when the deterrent was removed, the geese returned.

The report says the people who feed geese make the nuisance situation worse: The geese don’t migrate, they become used to people and even aggressive. The concentration of goose droppings is higher in areas where the birds are fed.

The report suggests a public education campaign to discourage people from feeding geese. It also found that some communities have bylaws prohibiting feeding geese — but didn’t know if the bylaws are enforced.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

History

Updated on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 2:48 PM CST: added byline

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