NANAIMO — A Vancouver Island University Canada geese research study taking flight aims to arm several mid-island communities with more knowledge on managing the often annoying birds.
Biology student Stew Pearce spearheaded the project of tagging 200 of the believed to be roughly 300 Canadian geese residing in Nanaimo last summer. He says a count in November revealed about 1,000 geese in Nanaimo. He notes some of those birds migrated south from areas like Campbell River and beyond.
“The research is to find out what the actual number of geese is, how they're moving around and whether or not anything needs to be done,” said Pearce.
Pearce notes his early findings of a year-long study point to interesting flight patterns involving the collared geese. He says only 23 of roughly 1,000 of the birds counted last month in Nanaimo had collars. He notes eight collared geese have died, with six of those fatalities from hunting. He says 14 marked geese were recorded recently in Washington and Oregon states.
He says there has been a steady increase in the number of geese on the island for the past 20-plus years. Several communities from Victoria to Campbell River are working on a regional geese management strategy which he says will build off of their own management plans.
“The geese are moving around a lot. There's a movement to arrange a joint management initiative, rather than have these geese fly from one town to the next and cause problems for everybody.”
Pearce says his project, which includes help from volunteers and the public who record collared birds, will be complete in April. He says a report will then be issued to the city of Nanaimo.
Ecological damage to estuaries in Parksville and Campbell River are growing concerns, according to Pearce. He says in order to come up with a solution to limit their harm, actual numbers of Canadian geese and their flight patterns are needed first.
Pearce notes that so far the Nanaimo River Estuary has escaped the environmental damage inflicted elsewhere beacuse it is legal to hunt geese there.
“If you look up and down the island, a lot of these estuaries due to population (human) growth have been shut down to hunting,” said Pearce. “They're safe zones for geese and their feeding habits are really disruptive.”
City of Nanaimo Environmental Protection Officer Kevin Brydges says the city is keeping tabs on the VIU study.
“It gives us an idea on how our populations fluctuate in Nanaimo and it helps us determine how we're going to address those birds,” said Brydges.
He says current geese combat tactics are as simple as scaring them off sports fields. He says another strategy is a population control method known as egg addling which was ramped up to 80 eggs last year in Nanaimo.
Brydges says the city occasionally gets complaints about geese chewing up and leaving their feces behind on sports fields. He says the city does its best to reduce the impacts the birds have on their sports fields and other park users.
Brydges would not count out a goose cull as a possible strategy to cut down on Nanaimo's population.
“A cull is a management tool and we would not exclude that option."
Pearce encourages the public to record sightings of the collared birds to https://wordpress.viu.ca/gooseproject/.