Metchosin looks to province for help to control crop-destroying birds
Metchosin farmer Tom Henry is at his wits end when it comes to hungry Canada geese.
He’s run through the fields with his dog, but the birds fly up only to land again. He’s used annoying noisemakers to startle the geese, but they learn to tune it out.
He’s even nailed hundreds of wooden stakes into his fields and strung out kilometres of twine, creating a grid that hovers over his crops and deters the big birds from landing.
“If the string is off the ground they don’t like it,” Henry said. It’s his own novel solution to the goose problem, but notes that some flocks are repelled by the twine and some aren’t. “If three geese land, 300 will follow.”
All this effort is too keep geese from destroying crops. Like the biblical swarm of locusts, Henry has seen flocks of 200 geese treat his red-fife wheat, oats and barley as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
“An adult goose eats about the equivalent to a lamb,” Henry observed.
Two years ago Henry had an entire field of red-fife wheat, only days away from harvesting, completely consumed by the fowl. The crop weren’t visible from the road and when Henry ventured back to reap what he sowed, the wheat was gone.
“It was a couple metric tonnes,” Henry said. In that incident alone cost Henry about $4,000 worth of wheat.
Henry and and a handfull other Metchosin farmers facing this flock-pocalypse took their concerns to the District, who in turn brought it forward to the Union of B.C. Municipalities meeting in Vancouver this week.
Metchosin’s resolution notes that the Canada goose was introduced to the Capital Region by the B.C. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 1950s for hunting. Now with a population between 3,000 and 5,000 birds, the resolution says geese “inflict significant damage to farms crops in Metchosin and on the Saanich Peninsula.”
The two rural farming areas are most often hit by marauding geese in the capital region, said Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, but farmers across the province are coping with this problem.
“These aren’t migratory, they are residential geese,” said Ranns, who admits he is unsure how to solve the problem.
Metchosin wants the province to set out a strategy to manage the geese population, which was supported at the UBCM, although the resolution is non-binding on the government.
In addition to string and noisemakers as a deterrent, Henry has a permit from the Canada Wildlife Service and the RCMP that allows him to shoot up to 30 Canada geese each year, but that doesn’t make much of a dent. As far as he is concerned, more geese need to be shot and goose eggs destroyed to help control the population.
“They are really beautiful birds, when they are in limited numbers,” Henry said.
While losing the crops is frustrating, Henry said Canada geese can can consume every blade of grass in a field, creating long term damage to the earth. When this happens, grazing animals are left with nothing to eat and the bare earth is exposed, causing erosion.
“They will land on the pastures and eat your grass down to the roots,” he said. “The grass doesn’t always recover.”