A non-profit group committed to the protection of animals is releasing details of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request to Vernon city hall in the decision-making process that led to the approval of a geese cull in the region.
The Toronto-based Animal Alliance of Canada says the FOI material provides little explanation for how a motion to cull 100-150 geese in the region passed in January 2021 after being defeated in February 2020 following two in-camera meetings.
A 200-page FOI request outlines a variety of reports from staff and other agencies, including Animal Alliance’s own Habitat Modification and Canada Geese manual, but no serious consideration is given to habitat modification items or the lives of the geese. There is even concern from a vet who specializes in birds with regards to the welfare of the animals in the event of a cull.
For 15 years the same egg addling program with some hazing was done to mitigate complaints related to geese droppings and use of public parks and beaches, with numbers declining overall. The city had also passed a bylaw prohibiting the feeding of wildlife to discourage attracting geese to public areas.
Furthermore, there is acknowledgment in the Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program’s own report of geese conflict being valley-wide, a warning sign that other geese will take place of those killed in a cull.
Jordan Reichert of the Animal Alliance, who lives and works in Victoria, said this is par for the course with municipal handling of geese, deer and other urban wildlife.
“Culling will just create a vacuum for more geese to take their place and they will end up in the annual cycle of complaints and more killing,” he said. “The city has an opportunity to show other municipalities in B.C. how to cohabitate with geese. With a bit of effort, Vernon residents can enjoy long-term benefits and council won’t have to get their hands bloodied. We are prepared to help.”
Animal Alliance is also very concerned about the inhumane methods that will likely be used in killing the birds, based on tactics used in other B.C. communities. In Parksville, hundreds of birds have been killed in multiple culls using a bolt-gun, a method that is not generally approved as humane for killing geese. Geese in Vernon are to be rounded up during their molting season, when they cannot fly, and killed.
“It is gut-wrenching to think that these iconic birds will be rounded up with their families when they are most vulnerable and killed in front of each other for hours,” said Reichert. “All because of their inconvenience to people and a lack of political will to take non-lethal long-term conflict-mitigation seriously.”
In February 2020, council received a report and presentation about the Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program and had a considerable amount of discussion about what additional steps could be taken to lessen the impact and conflicts between geese and humans within city limits. At that time, council directed administration to expand the egg addling program for one year, increasing the 2020 budget by $15,000.
Alternatives that were reviewed by council included landscape changes at Kin Beach and Paddlewheel Park to deter geese from congregating in these areas, using grade changes, fencing, and different plant materials. Depending on the scope of work, landscape changes could cost anywhere between $20,000 – $2 million, and may only force geese to relocate.
Another option was to increase daytime scare tactics (such as air horns or dogs) at Kin Beach, Paddlewheel Park and Lakeshore Park and remove waste from these areas, but with a high likelihood the geese would return to the area each night.
Nearly a year after that discussion and a serious review of alternative options, council directed administration to apply for the necessary permits required to initiate a cull program to humanely reduce the non-migratory resident Canada Goose population within Vernon city limits. The program must follow strict federal and provincial regulations and is estimated to cost $41,000.
The city’s goose control contractor has completed the goose management plan and has submitted it to the provincial and federal governments, along with all other applicable permit applications, in order to complete the goose cull. The city has not yet received approval on those applications.
In addition to the above, the City of Vernon remains an active participant in the Okanagan Valley-wide egg addling program to manage future populations of resident geese in the area, which is now in its 15th year of operation.
This story has been updated Wednesday, May 12, at 5:13 p.m. with the city’s reply
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