Technician Geoff Smart is under attack from both sides by a pair of nesting geese as he reaches for an egg in a nest near Skaha Beach during a spring addling program. Crews are currently making sweeps of the Okanagan region doing similar work to help control the goose population.

Technician Geoff Smart is under attack from both sides by a pair of nesting geese as he reaches for an egg in a nest near Skaha Beach during a spring addling program. Crews are currently making sweeps of the Okanagan region doing similar work to help control the goose population.

Goose control efforts take wing in Okanagan

Valley-wide egg addling program begins its sixth year, to control the Canada goose population in the Okanagan

In what’s become an annual tradition, egg adders will be patrolling Okanagan lakeshores over the next few weeks, poking into nooks and crannies to search out the nests of Canada geese.

The egg addling is part of a valley-wide program, now in its sixth year, to control the Canada goose population in the Okanagan. Since the program began in 2007, about 7,700 eggs have been prevented from hatching, which organizers estimate is equivalent to about 5,800 fewer geese in the valley, taking into account natural mortality.

“While most communities along the valley are struggling with management of non-migratory Canada geese, this program aims at reducing geese that are not native species to this area,” said Kate Hagmeier, co-ordinator of the Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program. “Trained contractors have already been searching for pairs and nesting sites, and we hope to complete the addling program by the end of May.”

The non-migratory geese are largely descendants of geese that were moved to the Okanagan in the ‘60s and ’70s as part of an introduction program. Young geese and eggs were brought here from different areas in Canada to encourage the creation of an Okanagan goose population.

But what was not foreseen was that with no natural parents to teach them, these introduced geese would not learn to migrate. And, like humans, they were quite able to adapt and thrive in the mild Okanagan climate, which provided another encouragement to remain.

The egg addling program involves shaking eggs or coating them with non-toxic biodegradable food-grade corn oil within 14 days of incubation to make them non-viable, then returning them to the nest. Geese continue to incubate the eggs until they realize they won’t hatch, by which time it is generally too late in the year to produce more eggs. Adults are not harmed and continue with their regular lifecycle.

Each year, new nests need to be identified, and people are being asked to report lone geese, pairs of geese or nest locations on private or public land by emailing coordinator@okanagangooseplan.com or calling 1-877-943-3209. More information about the program is available at www.okanagangooseplan.com.

In the case of private lands, an authorization form is available on the program website, but the public is asked to keep away from goose nests and to avoid touching the eggs. The Goose Management Program has secured a special permit from the federal government allowing crews from EBB Environmental Inc. and Wise Wildlife Control to addle goose eggs on public and private lands with the owners’ permission.

In addition to egg addling and population surveys, a grant from the Western Canada Turfgrass Association in 2012 contributed to a leg-banding program. Bird-banding is the practice of applying unique markers (bands) to the legs of birds. When a marked bird is observed by a birdwatcher or recovered by a hunter, data on age, survival, habitat use and migratory patterns can be retrieved and analyzed.

“The data collected during the leg-banding program will help us to improve our understanding of the population and how different birds use the valley,” said Hagmeier.