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Vancouver's done playing games with the geese that have taken over its parks

Thursday, March 4th 2021, 1:25 pm - Ideal habitat and a lack of predators means thousands of geese are thriving in the city.

In Vancouver, it's geese who reign over the green space in town.

Thousands of the birds — and counting — waddle as they please through the city's oceanfront parks, leaving an impressive trail of feathers and excrement in their wake. They foul public swimming pools, gobble young grass from freshly seeded fields, dig holes around water sprinklers and nip at passersby who get too close during mating season.

The Vancouver Park Board, by its own admission, cannot keep up.

"It is a constant challenge for the trades and operations staff," it said in a statement.

The board announced on Wednesday it is officially enlisting the public in its effort, asking for help to control the growing population of 3,500 geese. Staff are developing a Canada Geese Management Plan to find and remove nests, sterilize existing eggs and reinforce a ban on feeding geese.

UGC Canada Goose - Debbie Kitchen

Image courtesy: Debbie Kitchen.

To sterilize eggs, the City of Vancouver uses a technique called egg addling. Eggs can be shaken, frozen or covered in oil soon after they are laid, according to a 2016 report. Once the eggs are sterilized, they're placed back in nests to reduce the chances of the goose laying more. (If eggs are removed from the nests, the birds simply lay more to replace them.)

The board said Wednesday the practice has been in place since the 1990s and is approved by organizations including the B.C. SPCA and PETA.

But urban geese have caught on. They now try to hide their nests, laying their eggs away from parks and around private homes.

The board is asking the public to report goose nests on their property so staff can respond.

GEESE THRIVE IN COASTAL CITY

Geese flourish in Vancouver as the city's parks provide an ideal habitat with no natural predators. The birds were re-introduced to the area in the 1970s, to boost the population for hunting and consumption purposes.

Humans took to feeding the brown-and-black feathered birds regularly, which has encouraged them to gather in high-traffic areas and lay more than one clutch of eight eggs per season — a reproductive rate that wouldn't be possible if people weren't supplementing their diets.

"In nature, without food from humans, this wouldn't happen," the statement read.

The other problem with all that feeding, the board said, is the sheer amount of waste that follows. Canada geese produce a disproportionate amount of poop for their size and diet because they don't have a very efficient digestive system, compared to similar species.

"Wedding venues in parks and gardens struggle with keeping the areas clean of goose droppings, as do water parks," the board said.

Officials said the amount of egg addling happening in the city needs to triple in order to have an effect on the size of the goose population.

This article was written for the CBC.

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