Damage-causing geese are in the crosshairs of new bylaw amendments that could allow Metchosin farmers to take the problem into their own hands.
“I think this is a great example of how a practical approach can deal with things,” said Mayor John Ranns. “It’s a sensible, rural approach.”
He noted that geese have done significant damage in the municipality, especially on farms.
At Monday’s meeting, council voted unanimously to ask staff to prepare a firearms bylaw amendment that would allow farmers to kill more geese during hunting season (four two-week periods between September and March). Council’s decision followed a written request from the Capital Regional District. No locals spoke against the changes at the meeting, while a few residents spoke in favour of it.
The CRD board passed a motion in January requesting that rural municipalities such as Metchosin amend their firearms bylaws to allow more birds to be taken during hunting season.
“It will give farmers ammunition to protect their crops,” said Mike Hicks, chair of CRD Parks and the regional director for the Juan de Fuca electoral area.
A two-year crop damage permit, available from the federal Canadian Wildlife Service, is one of the aspects related to the initiative. This permit is issued to qualifying properties where migratory birds – including protected Canada geese – are causing or are likely to cause damage to agricultural crops or private property such as golf courses or parks, or pose a threat to human safety, such as on airfields.
The permit allows owners to nominate other hunters to shoot birds on their property. Other firearm requirements must also be met before a permit is issued.
Only a handful of properties across the CRD currently hold crop damage permits, Hicks said, emphasizing that only these properties would be impacted by the changes. It’s uncertain how many permit holders are in Metchosin, but it’s believed that the change in municipal bylaws could prompt more landowners to apply for the permits required.
The CRD is proposing that rural municipalities allow any landowners or nominees with a current crop damage permit, to hunt on their permitted lands using the federal migratory birds regulations.
Essentially, this will allow hunters to use blinds and decoys to take an additional 10 geese per day per person during hunting season. Hunters will also be allowed to keep and eat the birds they kill.
“It’s a totally different program,” Hicks said adding, “most importantly, they can eat the geese they hunt.”
He said there are an estimated 6,000 resident, non-migratory geese in the CRD. It is predicted that number will grow to 60,000 in the next 20 years.
“It’s out of hand now and causing tremendous problems for farmers,” he said.
Metchosin joins Sooke, Central Saanich and Saanich, all of which have directed staff to prepare bylaw amendments. The CRD also reached out to North Saanich’s council, but they have not yet voted on the matter.
“If everyone gets it done before hunting season, we could see some results,” Hicks said.
Did you know?
A federal Canadian Wildlife Service’s crop damage permit allows for between five and 10 birds to be killed per week throughout the year. Under this permit, hunters are not allowed to use blinds or decoys and are forbidden from eating the birds they shoot. By leaving dead birds in the fields, it is meant to scare away other birds and impact the entire flock. This hazing is supposed to prevent resident birds from returning.