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Canada goose population exploding

Strategy to control population not cheap.

Guelph’s Canada goose population appears to be exploding, and with it a proliferation of goose poo in riverside parks.

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie says something has to be done to control the population. Martin Neumann, the city’s manager of parks and forestry, says the matter is being studied, but control measures aren’t cheap.

Meanwhile, visitors to areas were the geese are thriving are having to sidestep a lot of goose-originated fertilizer and even several highly protective adult geese guarding their young. There are large families of geese currently grazing along downtown city streets – up to 20 birds per cluster.

Saara Horgan-Liinamaa was frolicking amongst a brood of geese Wednesday morning in Royal City Park with her son Finny. The geese were definitely cute and fun to watch as they pecked away in the grass. But Horgan-Liinamaa said a tipping point seems to have been reached and the population may be out of balance on the high side.

“There certainly should be some control, and I think it’s worthwhile to consider the options,” she said. “There’s probably a number that is a good balance. The city should consider what that number is.”

Last year, the idea of goose population control was first hatched, with a number of options considered.  There was a plan to implement a dog hazing approach last fall, but it didn’t go anywhere.  

Around budget deliberation time last year, city staff landed on a $50,000 figure, the amount needed to hire consultants and start an effective program tailored specifically for Guelph’s needs, said Neumann. The sum sounded too high for some, and in the end it was defeated.

In the interim, a collaboration with a group of University of Guelph biology students who are studying the issues is ongoing. Neumann said there are plans this summer to test goose poop scraping equipment in the parks, a measure that was tried with limited success last year.

“Last year they were looking at a strategy,” said Guthrie. “And they were asking for $50,000.”

Guthrie said he suggested at that time that the money include both a strategy and implementation. The funding was not included in the budget. The mayor said it’s possible that another request for funding will come in 2017 budget deliberations.

“It is an issue,” Guthrie said. “It’s kind of been made fun of by some people, but it’s not funny,” he said.

He was along Wellington Street earlier this week and saw a jogger navigate through a family of geese, he said. One of the adult geese got ready to nip at the jogger’s legs. There are also stories of people tip-toeing around goose feces in the parks, he added.  

“It is absolutely everywhere,” Guthrie said. “It’s gotten out of hand. We have to respond to the issue. We can’t ignore it anymore. The population is out of control and we have to do something, because it’s ruining the enjoyment of the very places in the city that the citizens so much enjoy.”

Neumann said measures like oiling goose eggs, which terminates the embryo, relocation, and hazing by dogs, are all tactics that could be deployed in a complete strategy. One approach is not enough. Any approach, he said, would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

“Successful goose management is more complicated than taking one or two measures,” he said. “It involves a consistent and prolonged approach. And it’s not free.”

Before any measures can be taken, a thorough, complete strategy is needed, and that involves hiring expert consultants, he indicated. He said the city continues to work with the U of G biology students, but that approach won’t be as polished as a strategy crafted by experts.

He added that a poll of 402 citizens has been taken to gauge the level of desire citizens have for goose management, and what tactics are acceptable to the public.

For now, there is no work being done on the ground where the geese congregate.



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Rob O'Flanagan

About the Author: Rob O'Flanagan

Rob O’Flanagan has been a newspaper reporter, photojournalist and columnist for over twenty years. He has won numerous Ontario Newspaper Awards and a National Newspaper Award.
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