Enderby backs starling control

Enderby council has rallied behind the Okanagan-Similkameen Starling Control Program.

Support for starling control has taken flight.

A year after city officials denied funding, it appears Enderby council has rallied behind the Okanagan-Similkameen Starling Control Program.

“We had a really good presentation and we were not only impressed with the information but alarmed by the damage starlings do,” said Mayor Howie Cyr.

Program representatives told council Monday that berries, tree fruits and vineyards can be decimated by starlings, leading to financial losses for growers.

Starlings, which were introduced to North America from Europe in the 1890s, also consume high-value crops and feed at cattle feedlots.

It’s believed starlings generate about $4 million in losses a year for Okanagan farmers.

Starlings are also known to displace native birds, destroying eggs and killing adults.

One of the program’s goals is to create public awareness about starlings as the birds often nest in urban settings and then fly more than 60 kilometres to feed.

Residents are asked to identify and block nesting sites.

Through the program, starlings are trapped and sold as food to breeders of hawks and falcons. There were 17,708 starlings caught in the North Okanagan in 2013.

“The starlings are a highly invasive species, and looking at the starling captures from 2009 to date, the traps seem to be  an effective solution in reducing the starling population,” said Coun. Tundra Baird.

Last year, Enderby council voted not to contribute $601 for the program, but Cyr now says that the city didn’t fully understand the magnitude of the starling problem.

“It’s one of the top 100 worst invasive species in the world,” he said.

Currently, the Regional District of North Okanagan is establishing a service to fund starling control annually.

The service includes all municipalities and electoral areas and it will proceed if less than 10 per cent of voters in the region do not sign a petition opposing the function.

“I believe starling control should become a regional function, with all municipalities contributing,” said Baird.

If the service goes ahead, Enderby’s financial contribution will be $610 annually.