Beach Avenue’s goose droppings are an ongoing nuisance, but ideas among council and district staff about the right course of action to deal with them vary from chastising people who feed the geese to an outright cull.
The issue was raised on Tuesday by Coun. Patrick Van Minsel who said over the last days and weeks residents and tourists have come to him to remark about the quantity of goose droppings at Swim Bay, which he said are becoming “almost a health issue.”
“How are we dealing with this for the moment?” asked Van Minsel. “I know it’s very difficult. We’ve been dealing with them for many years but I had a look myself and they were all over the place, and then I saw one of our lifeguards shovel it. I don’t know if there’s a better way to do it, so that’s my question.”
“Swim Bay is particularly bad,” said Mayor Cindy Fortin. “Unfortunately it’s a problem throughout the Okanagan and beyond and the culling that happened years ago – I wasn’t on council then – did not go over well. Everything we’ve tried, dogs, lasers, sonic shooter, and little statues and all those things doesn’t work so we really need to get onto people who are feeding the geese, as well. That’s a huge issue.”
Fortin recalled a cull that happened in the past “was going out with guns and shooting them in the public, which did not go over well . . . It was bloody and it was awful and they didn’t all die right away. No.”
“Didn’t we buy, for want of a better term, a pooper scooper? Are we using it?” asked Coun. Terry Condon, referring to the town’s Sweep All Sweeper or “poop Zamboni” that was purchased and put into operation in May 2021.
The “poop Zamboni” can be used on the sidewalk and grass areas to pick up a variety of debris, including goose droppings.
CAO Joe Creron said it used to be parked downtown but was moved up the hill for a while and wasn’t being used as often, though he said it’s now been moved back downtown so it can be used regularly.
“There were no geese here in 1960. Somebody imported them,” said Creron. “To deal with geese you have to use all the tactics. I know the mayor has been very clear to me that she doesn’t like the cull. I have done culls. I’ve been present during culls. You have to use all the tools. You’ve got to scare them, you have to try different coloured lights flashing, you’ve got to keep them so they don’t feel proper.”
The parks department is in a difficult situation when it comes to goose management as some residents want them to do more while others are insistent that staff should leave them alone.
“I’ll be honest with you, it’s a tough issue for staff,” said Creron.
But, he said, it is a health issue that needs to be handled carefully.
“When you bring in a cull, you have to do it very carefully. You have to ensure the public understands and, of course, if we’re going to go out and do stuff like that, we should have some open houses so we can hear from the public and be very open and transparent,” said Creron. “I will tell you, there will be people who are against it. There will also be a lot of people who tell you, ‘get rid of them.’”
For now, Creron agreed the town has a machine that needs to be used more often.
There is some regional coordination to deal with the issue through the Okanagan Valley Goose Management program, which addles eggs to control populations. However, many goose nests are inaccessible and therefore almost impossible to manage.
“They fly, and if you don’t deal with them in the entire valley, they’re going to come to your area and reproduce,” said Creron, noting he’s not sure he’d recommend a cull but it is something to consider.
“That’s our gem, our waterfront, and right now it’s actually embarrassing when you go for a walk in certain locations,” he said.