Risk Management Articles

Goose Management in BC


Members help Members Manage a Messy Issue

This summer, Sheryl Worthing, the Village of Burns Lake’s Chief Administrative Officer, contacted the MIABC with a sticky problem. Canada geese had taken over the Village’s beach area, leaving excrement on the dock, boat launch and sand. Sheryl was concerned about slip-and-falls and general unsightliness. It was difficult for Village crews to keep up with the mess. This being a new problem for the Village, Sheryl wondered whether any other members had encountered something similar. 

The MIABC’s Member Services Department connected Sheryl with the City of Port Moody and the Resort Municipality of Whistler, both of which had taken steps to
address the issue. 

The Risks 

For those communities where Canada geese choose to congregate, the risks they
create are varied, including reputational, liability, health and environmental risks.

Neal Carley, Port Moody’s General Manager, Engineering & Parks, explained that the City’s main concern was that geese made the community’s main recreation area, Rocky Point Park, less desirable for residents. Their excrement also created a risk of slip-and-falls on grassy areas where people were running and playing sports. In addition, Neal raised the environmental concern that the geese were becoming
increasingly habituated to human beings.

Heather Beresford is Whistler’s Manager, Environmental Stewardship. She explained
that Canada geese have only become a serious problem in Whistler over the past
ten years. Instead of passing through Whistler on their migration, geese have
begun residing there throughout the summer. Heather explained that the
rapid increase in the goose population has led to a host of problems, from water
quality issues to community and visitor dissatisfaction. In 2014, a popular beach
had to be closed over Labour Day weekend due to high E. coli levels in the water.
Heather’s team suspected that goose fecal matter was contributing to the problem.
The activities of geese have led to claims against the MIABC’s members. In a wellknown case that went to trial in 2009 (Ross v. Vernon (City)), a resident slipped and fell on goose excrement on a path in Vernon’s Polson Park, breaking her knee. She alleged that Vernon was negligent for failing to maintain the path. 

The Risk Management Strategies


In Port Moody, Neal’s department employs a number of measures, including plastic snow fencing to prevent the geese from entering the grass from the beach and
holographic (mylar) ribbon mounted on small posts throughout the park. The ribbon
reflects light and tends to act as a deterrent to the geese. To manage the fecal matter,
Port Moody has invested in a heavy-duty vacuum (the Tuff Vac 4000) that attaches to
the back of a tractor and is used to remove goose excrement from grassy areas.

In Whistler, the Environmental Stewardship office has taken a two-pronged approach as part of the goose management strategy it developed in 2014. The first prong involves tackling the immediate problem of goose excrement with measures such as feces clean-up, flagging tape and retractable fencing on the shorelines of Whistler’s
public beaches. Heather explained that her department works with local property
owners and strata councils to implement their own deterrent measures, so that
geese driven from public property do not end up on private property.

Another deterrent strategy is a dog hazing program, which Whistler operates with
the help of contractors and volunteers. Volunteers who sign up for the program
attend a training course with their dogs. Upon graduation, the dogs are given a
special badge and permission to run offleash in Whistler’s parks for the purpose
of hazing geese. There has been a great response in the community to this program,
which has been popular with people and dogs alike. 

The second prong of Whistler’s approach is more long-term. It has begun a program
of egg addling, which involves removing eggs from nesting locations in the
municipality. Egg addling is carried out in strict compliance with the guidelines
of the Humane Society pursuant to a permit issued by Environment Canada.
An important feature of this program is communication with the public to reassure
locals that the program is carried out humanely. The goal is not to eradicate geese, but to achieve a sustainable population.

As with many safety issues, the adoption of a written policy is a sound risk management practice. In Ross v. Vernon, the City was found not liable because the City’s contractor had followed a policy of cleaning the path every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Though new droppings had occurred since the last washing, the City’s duty was discharged by following the regular cleaning schedule. As the judge noted, it would be absurd to suggest that the City had a “legal duty to follow each of the park’s birds with a little scoop and baggie in hand so as to catch every dropping.” 

Resources for Members
 

Sheryl reports that in Burns Lake, the Village installed ribbon barriers to prevent the geese from leaving the beach. Now that the fall weather has firmly set in for the North-Central Interior, the Village’s Public Works Department will wait until next year to explore additional strategies. 

For those local governments concerned about geese, your counterparts in other
municipalities are an excellent resource. Heather explained that in developing
Whistler’s program, her department borrowed heavily from the Okanagan Valley
Goose Management Committee. This group, made up of a number of the MIABC’s
members, has developed a comprehensive strategy to manage Canada geese. They
have excellent information available online. You can also contact the MIABC’s Member
Services Department for more advice on risk management strategies.

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