Bird-control efforts spare Okanagan crops

Close to 500,000 starlings have been grounded as a result of region-wide program that's seeking renewed funding

Close to 500,000 nuisance birds have been permanently grounded through a program launched to help protect the region’s agricultural bounty.

Between 2003 and 2011, the Okanagan Similkameen Starling Control Program trapped and killed 442,197 birds, according to its own statistics, and is on track to hit the half-million mark once the numbers for 2012 are tallied.

Knocking those pests out of the sky has prevented untold crop damage and resulted in fewer complaints about the noise associated with other bird-scare methods like propane cannons, said Greg Norton, who helps oversee the program.

Norton, a director of the Okanagan Kootenay Cherry Growers’ Association, touted those benefits last week during a funding pitch to the Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen.

The RDOS and two regional districts to the north each provide $25,000 annually to the starling program, which had a $115,000 budget last year and is administered by the B.C. Grapegrowers’ Association. Agricultural producers chipped in about $36,000 for 2012, up from $28,500 in 2008.

“It’s a bit of a tough sell sometimes, but we are continuing the pressure on specific producers. There’s still a couple of big players out there we still want to get at,” Norton said.

Producers are not obliged to contribute, but are asked to donate $10 per planted acre.

Funds help pay four trappers to capture the starlings and dispatch them using carbon dioxide gas, Norton explained, and most of the bird carcasses are then provided to falconers and an owl rehabilitation centre.

Grant money from higher levels of government is also being sought to continue with research to identify from where local starlings originate.

“We really want to zero in on where they come from and it may dramatically change where we go after them,” Norton said.

He added that a graduate student working for the program on an expired, two-year term developed a method to analyze isotopes found in starlings’ feathers and was able to determine about 20 per cent of the starlings in this region come from the Quesnel area.

The program is also hoping to enlist the help of the area’s urban residents to wipe out starling nesting sites at homes and businesses in larger centres by setting up a service people can call to have someone remove nests free of charge.

Summerland Mayor Janice Perrino suggested the program also reminds people that getting rid of starlings, which destroy other species’ eggs and take over their nests, could help more desirable bird species get themselves re-established.

“People don’t realize that our songbirds are gone and… much of that is because of the starling,” she said.

“And I think if the education was, ‘If you get rid of this, you’ll get these back,’ I think that would be a huge educational piece that the public would be pleased to know.”

RDOS directors expressed support for continued funding of the program, which Norton said requires a buy-in from all three regional districts. He said the Central Okanagan Regional District has already pledged its support, while a presentation to the North Okanagan Regional District is scheduled for January.


Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

No personal information released following ransomware attack, says RDOS

The RDOS suffered an attempted ransomware attack in August, halting services

Salmon Arm Silverbacks face off against Vees in first of BCHL exhibition games

Games part of extended training camp leading to regular season start in December

Popular Penticton cafe shuts its doors

Saint Germaine Cafe and Gallery served its last latte Sept. 19

Kelowna filmmaker launches fundraiser for ‘Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ fan movie

Donations will go towards the production of ‘The Sawyer Massacre’

COVID-19: 4 more deaths, 366 new cases in B.C. since Friday

A total of 8,208 people in B.C. have tested positive for COVID-19 since January

16 COVID-19 cases reported in Interior Health region

One person is in hospital and 34 people are isolating

Group wants Parliament, courts to hold social media to same standard as publishers

Daniel Bernhard made the comments shortly after Friends of Canadian Broadcasting released a research paper

Truck, Shuswap police vehicle collide during arrest of wanted man

Emergency response team and helicopter called out to assist in Chase area arrest

Stolen vehicle recovered from site of Vernon manhunt for wanted man

Police return to Brooks Lane in response to reports of suspicious vehicle

Shuswap search and rescue crew respond to dirt biker injured on Mount Ida

North Vancouver man transported to hospital for treatment of injuries

Kelowna woman to run from Vernon to Penticton for mental health awareness

Melissa Gosse’s 100-kilometre ultramarathon will raise funds for Canadian Mental Health Association

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

‘Totally unnecessary’ – Okanagan-Shuswap Liberals MLAs reacts to election call

Eric Foster, Greg Kyllo say call is “political opportunity;’ each will seek re-election

Most Read