Okanagan renews efforts to control goose population

For the sixth year in a row, trained contractors are working on behalf of the Okanagan Valley Goose Management program

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.

Professional egg scramblers are once again on the prowl scouring local waterfronts for nesting Canada geese.

For the sixth year in a row, trained contractors are working on behalf of the Okanagan Valley Goose Management program in an effort to control population levels of the birds.

According to project co-ordinator Kate Hagmeier, in 2011 the field crews addled over 1,300 eggs from 274 nests between Vernon and Osoyoos.

“The multi-year project aims to reduce the population of resident Canada geese to a more manageable level and reduce large concentrations of geese in heavily used public areas,” she said. “It’s actually going very well. I wasn’t sure how it would begin because the weather was very mild and then we had a cold spell, but the geese are on track and we have over 500 eggs addled so far, with the bulk of those being from the south.”

Egg addling involves shaking eggs or coating them with non-toxic biodegradable food-grade corn oil, preventing oxygen transfer within 14 days of incubation, to make them non-viable.

The U.S. Humane Society supports this technique. Once addled, eggs are returned to the nest. Geese continue to incubate until they realize the eggs will not hatch.

At this point, it is generally too late in the year to produce more eggs. Adults are not harmed and will continue with their regular life cycle.

One of the largest geese population areas is around Vaseux Lake, where the control team has permission to addle in the migratory bird sanctuary from Environment Canada.

The co-ordinator described populations there as very high density.

So far the program has been successful, but Hagmeier would like to see better results in the future.

“It has controlled the population, which right now is level. That is excellent and has prevented that sort of exponential spike which would have occurred if the population hadn’t been controlled,” she said. “However, I hope continued addling, progressive management and partnerships with additional jurisdictions will decrease the Okanagan goose population.”

For the most part she says the adults are generally compliant with the technicians, although there are a few which are a bit more belligerent when the nests are disturbed.

While most of the work is being done on public lands, there are provisions this year to allow workers to do similar work on private property with proper authorization.

During the past five seasons, approximately 6,600 eggs have been prevented from hatching through the minimally invasive approach. Taking into account natural mortality of young through predation or nest failure, that is equivalent to approximately 5,000 fewer geese in the valley and all their potential young.

The program also entails a nest locating component and goose population surveys.

The co-ordinator believes the key to continued success of the program is finding new nests, which can be done by emailing coordinator@okanagangooseplan.com or calling 1-877-943-3209.

Information about the program is also available online at okanagangooseplan.com.

The Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program is a partnership between the City of Kelowna, Central Okanagan Regional District, Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen, District of West Kelowna, City of Vernon, City of Penticton, Town of Lake Country, Town of Osoyoos, Town of Oliver, District of Peachland, District of Summerland and Glenmore Ellison Irrigation District.

Hagmeier is hoping down the road other communities and municipalities will also get on board resulting in a whole lot more shaking going on.