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Osoyoos residents are being asked to help out successful goose management program
Residents across the South Okanagan – including the citizens who live in Osoyoos – are being asked to once again do their part to contribute to a program that has been successful in controlling the population of Canada Geese in this region.
The Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program has initiated its annual egg addling program.
Now in its eighth year, this program has prevented the exponential increase of the non-migratory resident goose population that inhabits the valley year round, said project co-ordinator Kate Hagmeier.
“This program has been very successful in communities across the Okanagan Valley being able to control the population growth of Canada Geese,” said Hagmeier. “When the program started eight years ago, the population was getting out of control. Because of this program, we estimate more than 6,000 birds haven’t entered the goose population across the region.”
Most communities in the Okanagan Valley, including Osoyoos, struggle with management of non-migratory Canada Geese, she said.
They are largely the descendants of non-native species of geese that were brought to the valley from different areas in Canada in the 1960s and 1970s to encourage the creation of an Okanagan Valley goose population, said Hagmeier.
What was not foreseen was their ability to adapt and thrive in the mild weather of the Okanagan Valley and their inability to migrate because they had no natural parents to teach them survival skills, she said.
As a result, the population has grown with few natural controls, creating a need to manage this population, she said.
The Okanagan Valley Goose Management program works to control the reproductive output of Canada Geese, particularly in public spaces.
Trained contractors identify mating pairs and nesting sites and will complete the addling program by the end of May, said Hagmeier.
Key to the success of the program is finding new nests and this is where assistance from the public is most needed, she said.
“The public is asked to assist by reporting lone geese, pairs of geese, or nest locations on private or public lands,” she said. “The public is also asked to keep away from goose nests and to avoid touching the eggs.”
The Okanagan Valley Goose Management Program is a partnership between the City of Kelowna, Central Okanagan Regional District, Region District of the 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.
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, said Hagmeier.
The U.S. Humane Society and other prominent agencies support this technique, she said.
Once addled, eggs are returned to the nest and 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, said Hagmeier.
During the past seven years, approximately 8,000 eggs have been prevented from hatching through this minimally invasive approach and taking into account natural mortality of young geese through predation or nest failure, that is equivalent to approximately 6,000 fewer geese in the valley and all of their potential young, she said.
A special permit is required to perform egg addling, which has been secured from the federal government allowing approved crews to addle goose eggs on public and private lands with the owners’ permission, she said.
In the case of private lands, an authorization form is available on the program’s website.
In addition to egg addling and population surveys, a grant from the Western Canada Turfgrass Association in 2012 contributed to a leg-banding program for Canada Geese, she said.
Bird banding is the practice of applying unique markers such as bands to the legs of birds. When a marked bird is observe by a birdwatcher or recovered by a hunter, data on age, survival, habitat use and migratory patterns can be retrieved and analyzed.
This date will help improve the understanding of how the population and how different birds use the valley, said Hagmeier. Aerial surveys conducted by her organization estimate the number of non-migratory Canada Geese population in the Okanagan Valley to be between 2,500 and 3,000, which shows how important this program is considering the population has been reduced by the estimated 6,000 because of this program over the past seven year, she said.
Members of the public have been “exceptionally co-operative” in helping make this program a success and she expects more of the same this spring, said Hagmeier.
Anyone who spots a lone male goose should realize he is “almost assuredly protecting the nest” and the female he has bred with is close by, she said.
Program directors are thrilled with the support of local residents, she said.
For more information about the program, go online and visit okanagangooseplan.com. You can also call 1-877-943-3209.