Geese at the waterfront may seem picturesque, but a closer look tells another story.
Lakefront geese are a problem up and down the Okanagan Valley and it’s nothing new for Peachland, where geese congregate in parks where residents and tourists also like to go.
During the July 14 meeting, Peachland’s council received information from Kate Hagmeier, the coordinator for the Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program (OVGMP), about the program’s strategy after the council received several complaints about goose droppings in parks.
Mayor Cindy Fortin said she knows it’s a problem throughout the region and suggested that perhaps, council should look into a new bylaw that will fine people for feeding geese in the area, so as to discourage people from doing it.
Hagmeier said managing geese is a matter of balancing wildlife and people, as well as looking at the environmental impacts of the waterfowl. She said, especially in the case of Peachland, there are concerns regarding water quality, residents being able to use beaches and parks cleanly and safely, as well as how the geese affect tourism in the area.
“With all the geese here, it increases fecal matter in the water, as well as biological oxygen demands, so you’re decreasing oxygen availability to aquatic plants, animals, fish and insects so you’re really changing how the wetlands function. You also get an increase in sedimentation because they’re grazing on vegetation and diluting shorelines, so you’re getting less vegetation and more muddy edges,” she said.
“There’s a comprehensive suite of issues… but we want to balance that, especially for people who don’t have access to wildlife. We have to respect that for some people, there’s real value in seeing geese by the water.”
The OVGMP uses a technique called egg addling, where workers shake eggs early in the incubation period to make the eggs non-viable. By the time adult geese realize the eggs won’t hatch, it will be too late in the season for them to start a new nest and lay more eggs.
“Egg addling is a huge part of the program and takes up a lot of resources. In April and May, geese lay eggs… we go out for six to eight weeks in the spring and we survey for nests,” Hagmeier said.
“If we find nests, we addle the eggs. It sterilizes the eggs so they won’t hatch and the adults aren’t harmed. This way, they just go about the rest of their year without laying more eggs. This is the most minimally invasive way of conducting population control.”
Previously, Peachland has used other tactics to control the geese population, including using decoys and a scare program, but staff said geese adapt the control strategies and continue on.
Director of community services Cheryl Wiebe said there may not be further action on the matter for a while besides participating in the OVGMP.
“Council is very interested in looking at a machine called the goose poop sweeper. A Vancouver Island community purchased one recently, and it’s something we’re definitely going to do some research on and present to council for next year’s budget,” she said.
“Our job is to find the right balance between people and geese who are using our spaces as well.”