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WHS geese signs nixed

Resident wants signs back, but idea won’t fly after 2011 bylaw flap

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Maureen Feaver was moved to action by a dead goose she saw on Kenaston Boulevard near Sterling Lyon Parkway about a month ago.

"It was probably one of the first ones back, and it was already dead," said the Charleswood resident.

"It was flat as a pancake."

It made her think of the Winnipeg Humane Society (WHS) signs she used to see warning drivers to slow down for geese in Charleswood and areas in south Winnipeg.

So, Feaver called the WHS and was surprised to learn the non-profit agency, which is dedicated to animal welfare, had been fined by the city for putting the warning signs out in violation of the Neighbourhood Liveability Bylaw.

WHS CEO Bill McDonald said the agency sent out volunteers with 25 wire-framed plastic signs in May of 2011 warning drivers to slow down for geese.

"We tried to pick the spots where the geese were actually crossing the road," McDonald said.

About two months later a bylaw enforcement officer showed up at the WHS doorstep and told them to remove the signs or face a fine.

McDonald said they tried to comply, but because they’d sent out volunteers to initially place the signs they couldn’t find them all and a couple were missed.

The bylaw enforcement officer didn’t miss them though, and he came back with a ticket.

"I got a summons to municipal court," McDonald said.

He went and stood before a magistrate with the $250 ticket, which was forgiven.

"I got a pretty good, stiff warning from the magistrate. . . long story short, he told us we’re getting off lightly," McDonald said.

"So, we didn’t put any signs up in 2012, and we don’t intend to this year, because they will fine us."

McDonald said he understands the city’s position.

"They couldn’t let a big organization get away with it, otherwise they’d have to let citizens do what they want."

Feaver thinks the city should either allow the WHS signs, or put some of their own up. The WHS signs were small and not distracting to drivers, she said, yet they were effective.

 "If they would sooner send out crews to pick up dead ducks and dead goslings, that’s up to them . . . that’s unfortunate," she said.

Doug Panchuk, owner of Shurwood Forest, the company contracted by the city to perform pickup of dead animals, said he doesn’t believe the signs are needed.

"There’s a very limited number of geese that get picked up," he said.

Calls to Winnipeg’s 311 phone line to report dead animals reveal about 200 dead geese per year for 2011-12, up about 70 per year over 2009-10.

"Given the sheer number of geese that we have in the city, the number of dead geese is very, very minimal," Panchuk said.

The city reports goose counts in the fall of 2012 came up with just over 2,000 resident and 70,000 migratory geese in and around Winnipeg, though Manitoba’s Wildlife Branch pegs the annual fall population at over 120,000.

Since 2011 the Urban Goose Working Group —  a collaboration between three levels of government and the Winnipeg Airport Authority, has been destroying goose eggs (about 1,000 each year) along south Kenaston Boulevard in an effort to control populations.

  Dead animal pickup calls to 311


                2009     2010     2011     2012

Cat:          850       873      919    1,072
Dog:         106       166      138       129
Deer:        603       629      738       661
Skunk:      205       290      201       369
Squirrel:   134         91      103       154
Fox:             6         17        15         18
Rabbit:      283       287      247       414
Goose:      132       134      202       197

* Multiple calls for same animal/location
   not double-counted.

Source: City of Winnipeg


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