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Vancouver's Canada goose population is booming. Is COVID-19 to blame?

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Summary

There are an estimated 3,000 Canada geese in Vancouver and the population is growing

Park Board efforts to control the population have been scaled back, due to the coronavirus pandemic

Most geese in Vancouver don't migrate in winter

NEWS 1130 is working hard to get you the information you need about the COVID-19 pandemic.

When you have questions, NEWS 1130 Gets Answers.

Question:

Greg: “Did the pandemic associated lockdown allow more geese than normal to nest around English Bay beaches? And has the city been firing off guns at dawn to try and scare them away? As a West End resident, the hordes of geese are very noticeable and we have been hearing loud blasts in the mornings.”

Answer:

If there are more geese than usual hanging out in the West End, the pandemic could be partly to blame – but probably not for the reason Greg suggests.

Park Board employees go out looking for goose nests every year and shake the eggs or replace them with frozen ones to prevent hatching while tricking the mother goose to continue nesting.

The process, known as addling, is the Park Board’s primary method of controlling the goose population, spokesperson Daria Wojnarski said.

Last year, there were an estimated 1,250 nests in Vancouver, but only 255 eggs from 50 nests were addled, she said.

But, she said, addling efforts have been scaled back this year due to “limited staff capacity” during the emergency response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Geese are also increasingly nesting in places Park Board staff can’t access, including on private property and on top of tall tree stumps, Wojnarski added.

Wojnarski said the park board does not fire guns or anything else to make blasting noises and she doesn’t know the source of the noises Greg reports.

Vancouver has a booming Canada geese population of approximately 3,000, which is only expected to grow thanks to the city’s abundance of ideal habitat (hilly, mowed lawns next to bodies of water), a lack of predators and humans who feed them, she said.

There’s so many of the birds in Vancouver in the first place because they were reintroduced to the area by people in the 1970s. So most of the birds waddling, pooping, and flying around the city are not descendants of animals native to the area, urban biodiversity planner Jennifer Rae Pierce told NEWS 1130.

“Geese are a desirable species from a human standpoint because we eat them, we hunt them, they’re beautiful, they’re part of the landscape,” she said.

Pierce, who wrote a report about Canada geese for the City of Vancouver in 2016, said she doesn’t think the COVID-19 lockdown caused more geese to nest in populated areas.

She said it’s normal to see an abundance of geese in the city at this time of year, as they finish their nesting season, goslings begin hanging out with one another and adults are molting, keeping them from flying.

Humans have created “novel, urban ecosystems that are completely different from other places” and ideal for Canada geese, she said.

And they seem perfectly happy to stick around. Most Vancouver geese don’t migrate south in the winter as a result of their being brought here by humans.

“If they’re not taught to migrate, then they won’t,” Pierce explains.

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