Opinion

BEYOND THE HEADLINES: Decision falls flat

Enderby politicians have saved $601 but  that could have far-reaching implications for residents and the economy.

On Monday, council decided not to participate in the valley-wide effort to control starlings, a non-indigenous bird species.

“Council believes it’s not a major problem in our area,” said Mayor Howie Cyr.

“We don’t have grapes and council thought the money could be better used elsewhere,” added Coun. Brad Case.

Perhaps council members thought that only grapes are ravaged by starlings because the control program is administered by the B.C. Grape Growers Association.

However, that is far from the case.

“At livestock operations, starlings consume feed and contaminate the feed and water with their droppings,” states the B.C. Grape Growers Association’s website.

“They are particularly attracted to these locations in the winter when the weather is cold and food is scarce. Starlings may also transfer disease among livestock facilities.”

The website also goes on to say that during the winter, flocks of up to 2,000 birds can consume one to two tonnes of feed in a month and can contaminate or spoil an additional 500 to 1,000 kilograms of feed.

“They also selectively eat the high-protein portion of protein-supplemented livestock feed.”

While there are no farms in Enderby itself, the surrounding rural area — Grindrod, Ashton Creek and Mara — is home to some significant cattle operations. It’s likely farmers have had clouds of starlings swarm on to their properties and consume everything in sight.

Corn and other field crops can be attacked and Enderby council may have forgot that just a short trip up Highway 97B is Larch Hills Winery. So there is grape production within close vicinity.

Voracious starlings translate into economic losses for farmers — about $4 million a year in the Okanagan. That means fewer dollars to spend at Enderby’s grocery stores, restaurants and boutiques.

The other factor to consider is that starlings are an urban pest.

“Large flocks are unsightly, noisy and contaminate the area with droppings,” states the grape growers website.

According to Wikipedia, a survey of 300 starlings in six U.S. states found they all had at least one type of parasite — fleas, mites, ticks or worms. That’s not something you want your cat bringing into the house.

They will nest on building ledges and in warehouses, open rafters, dryer vents and particularly birdhouses, which are numerous along the scenic river walk in Enderby.

“Starlings are aggressive and opportunistic. They will take any suitable site for nesting and evict any previous owner, driving native birds from their territory,” states the grape growers.

In a dramatic departure from Enderby, Lumby has no problem forking out $432 for starling control.

“It supports the regional district’s priority of agriculture and we support that,” said Nick Hodge, a village councillor.

The Regional District of North Okanagan recently formed an advisory committee to focus on the economic and social benefits of agriculture. One of the members is Enderby’s Howie Cyr.

In the end, $601 isn’t going to make or break starling control but the lack of support should raise concerns that Enderby politicians don’t fully understand what is occurring in their community.

 

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