Penticton ready for a wild goose chase

Penticton has plans to round up and relocate Canada geese from the city's parks and beaches

Possibly as soon as next week, city staff are going to be helping out at an unusual roundup to rid the beach, at least temporarily, of a pest they have been battling for years.

That would be the Canada goose, whose droppings foul beaches and parks throughout the valley. Along with biologists employed under the Okanagan Regional Goose Management program, the city will be rounding up resident geese, banding them and relocating them.

“This is a key time of year, as the geese are in their moulting stage and they don’t fly for about four weeks. That’s why they want to be on our parks and we are constantly shooing them off our parks and cleaning up after them,” said Jeff Lynka, Penticton’s parks supervisor. “It is really this period of time when the geese aren’t flying that they become so persistent on our beaches.”

The roundup and banding program is an extension of the egg addling Penticton, along with other valley communities, has been doing since 2007. The idea is not to eliminate the geese entirely, but to reduce their numbers to a naturally sustainable level of resident geese in the Okanagan Valley and minimize the risk to human health and safety.

“We have noticed in the last couple of years a reduction in the number of geese on the waterfront. It wasn’t unusual for us to see up to double what we are seeing today,” said Lynka. According to the most recent counts, the resident goose population throughout the valley is now around 2,500 to 3,500 geese.

“That’s the same number that was counted prior to the egg addling program beginning, so it’s really encouraging that six years later, we’re not seeing an increase in numbers. Without the egg addling program, it’s fair to say that the number of geese would have doubled, if not tripled,” said Lynka. “Fifty years ago, there were very few, if any, resident geese. We’ve created a great environment, not only for us, but for geese. Many of the things we like — mild winters, nice beaches, clean parks, fresh grass — those are the same things that attract the geese.”

Banding and measuring the geese after they have been rounded up will provide valuable management information about the resident Canada geese, according to Lynka, who added that relocating them at the same time would help keep the beaches clear during the tourist season.

“Right now, we have a group of about 50 geese on the Okanagan waterfront that are being very persistent at coming into our parks and beaches,” said Lynka. In all likelihood, he continued, the adult geese will return when their flight feathers grow back in, though the juveniles accompanying them may not.

“The hope is that the geese will choose not to return. Once our beaches become more populated with people and more activities, the geese tend to stay away,” said Lynka. “If nothing else, we take the geese off the beach for a few weeks when we are at a real critical time of the year, when people are swimming and we have a lot of tourists here.”