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City's goose population steadily growing: report

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Winnipeg isn't high on the list of global tourist attractions, but that's not an issue with one set of travellers -- Canada geese.

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

Even though more Winnipeggers find the geese to be a nuisance, the report states many people continue to feed them and make them feel welcome.

And the city obligingly mows the grass around retention ponds to make life easier for the geese.

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

Many people enjoy seeing the geese on the city's ponds and feed them, but others find the accompanying droppings a nuisance or worse. One of the worst areas is the St. Vital Park duck pond, where the walking path and much of the surrounding grass area are 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 in 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 Winnipeg has become the perfect setting for geese. The city was already on the birds' traditional migratory flyway. But as the city grew to rely 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 (have) made the city attractive to migratory populations in the fall," the report states.

The city estimates the year-round goose population has increased to 2,900 in 2013 from 2,000 in 1999, 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 and 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 fake coyotes (which were stolen) at two parks 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 geese find distasteful worked to a degree, but it's expensive and there are additional costs to apply and it must be reapplied after it rains.

In addition, the city found 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 people who feed geese make the nuisance situation worse: The geese don't migrate for moulting as they should; 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 some communities have bylaws prohibiting feeding geese -- but staff didn't know whether the bylaws are enforced.

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 7, 2014 0

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