Canada geese are congregating on beaches up and down the Okanagan Valley. Typically a migratory bird, Canada Geese are now taking up residence in grassy areas on the waterfront, on golf courses and in parks. Kelowna is not the only community faced with this issue as Canada Geese are thriving in many communities across Canada and the United States, and their typical behaviour is changing.
What are the issues?
Interior Health has stated that geese negatively impact recreational water quality and that geese should be kept away from beach parks. Some water quality samples show E-coli bacteria counts reaching threshold levels during the summer months. The City of Kelowna has embarked on a two year study with the University of Victoria to better determine the source of E-coli water contaminants. Preliminary results indicate that more than 60% of the E-coli bacteria originate from avian sources.
Beyond water quality, the prevalence of goose droppings reduces the enjoyment of parks and beaches throughout the valley.
Okanagan Regional Goose Management Committee
This Committee was formed in 1995 to address ways to minimize the impact of geese within an urban environment. Members include the City of Kelowna, the City of Vernon, the City of Penticton, the Town of Osoyoos and the District of Summerland, representing three regional districts.
Habitat modification and other deterrents, including physical barriers, predator decoys, spraying grass to reduce its appeal, have all have met with limited success. Once the birds realize the danger is not real they return to the same locations. Recent bird counts indicate that the goose population is continuing to rise.
Egg addling, which was introduced in 2007, is only one component of the Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program. This program is a multi-year project aimed at reducing the population of resident Canada Geese to a more manageable level, and reducing the large concentrations of geese in heavily used public areas.
Egg addling involves shaking eggs within 14 days of incubation to make them non-viable. The U.S. Humane Society considers egg addling to be humane during this time period.
Once addled the eggs are returned to the nest; the goose continues to incubate the eggs instead of laying new eggs. Due to the longevity of geese it is expected to take three to five years to see the impact of the egg addling program.
In spring 2007 more than 1170 goose eggs were addled from 216 nests between Osoyoos and Vernon, surpassing the goal of 1000 by 17%. This program's success is due in large part to the help received from the public who reported goose nest sittings and gave permission to addle eggs on private property.
Egg addling means a significant reduction in the number of new geese that would otherwise have been introduced to the Okanagan Valley; since the survival rate for urban eggs is approximately 75% this means approximately 877 fewer goslings in 2007. The long term impact is even greater considering every female goose produces up to six to eight eggs annually, for approximately eight to ten years.
In addition to egg addling, aerial and ground surveys will be conducted to gain a more accurate count of Canada Geese in the Okanagan Valley, and an education component will be rolled out later this year to teach residents what they can do to help reduce the numbers of Canada Geese prevalent in the region. For more information please visit www.okanagangooseplan.com.
Relocation of geese will be conducted occasionally to remove some of the geese from Okanagan Lake during key times. It is a temporary solution as the birds are expected to return. Relocation takes place when the birds are molting and unable to fly. When their flight capability returns in early fall, the public’s use of beaches and parks begins to diminish.
The City of Kelowna has consulted with wildlife experts on the most humane methods to relocate adult geese and goslings. Only a few goslings have been relocated, the majority of relocations are adult birds. The geese are kept cool, separated and in the dark while they are being transported,; this helps to calm the birds. The goslings are contained in kennels during transport and are not being separated from family units, i.e. the adults are also relocated with their young. Large burlap sacks are commonly used for adult geese.
The birds are transported very quickly to reduce their level of stress and are released at the wetland next to the Glenmore Landfill where other geese and waterfowl have been observed to be healthy and thriving.
Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program
The Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program is a multi-year project aimed at reducing the population of resident Canada Geese to a more manageable level, and reducing the large concentrations of geese in heavily used public areas. The Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program is a partnership between the City of Kelowna, Regional District of the Central Okanagan, City of Vernon, City of Penticton, Town of Osoyoos and District of Summerland. The program's action plan is expected to cost approximately $136,000 in 2007; Kelowna is contributing $75,000.
The City of Kelowna will spend an additional $90,000 to control and clean up after geese on City-owned lands in 2007. Control techniques include scare tactics, relocation and habitat modification.
In January 2006 EBB Environmental Inc. was awarded the contract to implement the Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program. EBB employs staff who are experienced in handling wildlife and educated on the migratory, nesting and breeding habits of Canada geese.