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How Vernon's goose cull got killed

FILE PHOTO - Canada geese are seen at Kin Beach on Okanagan Lake in Vernon, Feb. 5, 2021.

It's not easy to kill a goose in Vernon. In fact, the roughly 250 Canada geese that call Vernon home will have at least until the fall to waddle around without worrying about the threat of being shot.

While Vernon council approved a kill to scare program in June 2021, delays with federal and provincial permits, along with the small window when the birds can be killed, means nothing will take place until the fall at the very earliest.

It means beachgoers at the popular goose hangouts of Kin and Paddlewheel Park on Okanagan Lake will have to tip-toe through the poop for another summer.

The issue with the geese, or more precisely their feces that litters several popular waterside Vernon parks, has been ongoing for years.

READ MORE: Vernon council approves goose cull, but silence on kill method

In 2020, roughly 70 geese nests were found in and around Vernon, and was a significant increase compared to the 10 or 20 nests which had been present several years earlier.

What to do about the geese has been a contentious issue for many in the community as well as for the politicians who will ultimately make the decision on how to deal with them.

In early 2020, in a close vote council decided not to cull the birds, but 12 months later voted again with the motion to go ahead with the cull passing.

However, by June 2021, with federal and provincial permits still not approved, council changed direction and instead decided on a kill to scare program.

The program sees one or two "socially dominant" geese shot creating a sense of danger in that area in the hopes it will deter the others to leave. It hoped to reduce the goose population in the Vernon area by 100 to 150 birds.

However, nothing has been done as yet.

The City's manager of Parks and Public Spaces Kendra Kryszak said the permitting process and lining up a contractor did not happen in time to utilize the kill to scare program for the small window of opportunity this spring.

The next window of opportunity comes this fall and Kryszak said the City is aiming for the program to take place then.

READ MORE: As Vernon debates geese cull, this Vancouver Island community decided to harvest the birds

The park's manager said the permitting process is complicated with a full goose management strategy including the number of birds around needing to be submitted, along with a willing contractor, to the government before it then gives a number of how many geese can be killed.

The kill to scare program is estimated to cost $15,000, significantly cheaper than the cull which was set to cost $40,000, or $273 per goose.

While the delays mean the geese can breathe easy this summer, the City is still using other methods to deter the birds.

The geese addling program is still in effect. The program tries to control the goose population by removing fertilized eggs from the nest, terminating the embryo and then placing the egg back in the nest.

The City also contracts out a geese hazing program, where dogs are used on the beach early morning to scare off, or haze, the geese.

An enhanced turf cleaning program will also start soon, whereby the beach and parks will be cleaned twice a week by a machine that is essentially like a vacuum cleaner. In June 2021, council authorized $45,000 for the equipment purchases, plus up to $38,000 for the enhanced turf clean-up.

One other method put forward by council was to allow hunting at the McKay Reservoir, a popular geese spot.

Vernon Mayor Victor Cumming, who voted against the cull, had previously pushed this as a possible solution to the goose issue. Another benefit of the geese being allowed to be taken by hunters means the meat will also be used.

However, for this to happen the City's bylaw regarding hunting would need to be changed.

So far it hasn't been.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Ben Bulmer or call (250) 309-5230 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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