Canada geese, the symbolic bird of the nation, are everywhere – on coins, promotional materials and in the minds of people who have never visited Canada when you ask them what they know about Canada.
Birds are everywhere in Vancouver too, especially in park areas. Visitors to any Vancouver park this summer have likely noticed large amounts of goose feces in the grass and adjacent paved areas.
The animals have a very inefficient digestive system compared to other animals, explains a spokesperson for the city of Vancouver. They produce more feces for their size and the amount of food they eat than most other species and can defecate every 12 minutes on average when they eat, and unfortunately they congregate in parks to molt and feed.
This contributes to the fact that the locals are forced to wade through a huge amount of mud, it seems, all year round, since not all migratory birds fly south for the winter.
Their favorite hangouts are areas where grassy glades meet the coastline, such as Stanley Park, English Bay and Sunset Beach, Trout Lake, along Falls Creek, and at the VanDusen Botanical Gardens. When faecal levels around the shores of local beaches get too high, the parks board closes them due to health concerns, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for grassy areas.
The City of Vancouver states that “there is no official protocol for measuring the amount of feces produced by Canada geese in public parks.” The spokesperson explains that “the waters are controlled by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority. They provide regular water quality reports that inform Park Board decisions to close beaches/advise against swimming as needed.”
They do not monitor levels on land because “as long as people practice good hygiene, wash their hands after contact with any goose droppings, this does not pose a risk to public health.”
However, they go on to say that the city is “well aware of the impact of Canada geese on the city’s public spaces” and recommend that dog owners keep a close eye on their pets so they don’t contract diseases roaming the grass.
Staff clear droppings from hotspots on schedule and work to keep geese from congregating in high-conflict areas such as swamp pools.
Goose problems are more than just poop
With a huge number of geese living here all year round, the problems go beyond excrement.
Canadian geese become aggressive during the mating season. They eat freshly sown fields and lawns, delaying the growth of young grass. They dig holes around sprinklers with their beaks in an attempt to drink water, which damages irrigation systems. And in addition to the pollution they leave on beaches, picnic areas, cat sports and memorial benches, the city says it’s become a slip hazard.
“The efforts of the Population Control Council are focused on adding and educating residents on ways to prevent an increase in population, such as asking people not to feed them,” the spokesperson says.
Feeding geese can result in a fine of up to $500, and the goose egg fattening program was introduced as a wildlife management method back in April. As part of the program, the city replaced viable eggs with eggs that had been pre-treated to prevent them from hatching. This was an approach supported by BC SPCA and PETA and authorized by Environment Canada under the Migratory Bird Convention Act.
“We are also working with wildlife biologists to continually monitor population growth and distribution through research, which will serve as the basis for developing an action plan to consider all options, including those that have been effective in other jurisdictions. This action plan will be submitted to the Park Board in early 2023,” the spokesperson added.