Geese are gathering on beaches up and down the Okanagan Valley. Geese are typically migratory birds, but 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 geese are thriving in many communities across Canada and the United States, and their typical behaviour is changing.
Interior Health has stated that geese negatively impact recreational water quality and that should be kept away from beach parks. Some water quality samples show E-coli bacteria counts reaching threshold levels during the summer months. Beyond water quality, the prevalence of goose droppings reduces the enjoyment of parks and beaches throughout the valley.
Goose management will be conducted year-round between Monday to Friday, 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., though peak activity will occur in the spring and fall when there is generally an increase in the geese population.
We’re a member of the Okanagan Regional Goose Management Committee, which was formed in 1995 to address ways to minimize the impact of geese within an urban environment. Other members include the City of Vernon, City of Penticton, Town of Osoyoos and District of Summerland, representing three regional districts.
We’re also involved in the Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program, 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 other members include the Regional District of the Central Okanagan, City of Vernon, City of Penticton, Town of Osoyoos and District of Summerland.
Habitat modification and other deterrents, including physical barriers, predator decoys and spraying grass to reduce its appeal, have all have met with limited success. Once the birds realize the danger isn’t real, they return to the same locations. Recent bird counts indicate that the goose population is continuing to rise.
We’re continuing to work on the goose issue through the following techniques:
Egg addling, which was introduced in 2007, 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 and the goose continues to incubate the eggs instead of laying new eggs. Due to the longevity of geese, it’s expected to take three to five years to see the impact of the egg addling program.
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 per cent, 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 see the Okanagan Goose Management Plan.
Relocation of geese will be conducted occasionally to remove some of the geese from Okanagan Lake during key times. It’s a temporary solution because 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.
We have consulted with wildlife experts on the most humane methods to relocate adult geese and goslings. Only a few goslings have been relocated - the majority being 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 aren’t 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.
Common scare tactics utilized by the City's contractor include lasers, falcons, dogs and noise makers, which include loud bangs. Residents are advised that while any public park or beach could require goose management (as covered by the Canadian Wildlife Service "Scare Permit"), techniques will occur more often in these parks:
- Mission Recreation Park
- Parkinson Recreation Park, including the Apple Bowl
- Elks Stadium
- City Park
- Waterfront Park