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Urban Planning

‘They Poop Every 12 Minutes’

Geese, that is. But Vancouver is on the case with a new scooping contraption.

Jen St. Denis 19 Jun 2024The Tyee

Jen St. Denis is a reporter with The Tyee covering civic issues. Find her on X @JenStDen.

In the 1970s, Canada geese were imported to the Lower Mainland for hunting and “wildlife viewing.” Unlike the Canada geese that are native to the area, these birds didn’t migrate, but lived in B.C.’s south coast all year long.

Today, that population of non-migrating geese is booming, forcing municipalities to find ways to try to control the number of birds and the mess they leave. They’ve been semi-affectionately called “cobra chickens,” with some worrying about their ability to seemingly take over streets and entire neighbourhoods.

A famous flock living near Science World in Vancouver has been known to stop traffic as they make their way across Quebec Street and Terminal Avenue. And earlier this year, the Tyee’s former labour reporter, Zak Vescera, documented the adventures of Striker the goose, who was adopted by workers walking the picket line during a strike at the Rogers Sugar refinery.

Canada geese fledglings by the water.
Geese have now had their babies and are focused on hanging out — and pooping a lot — at Vancouver’s parks.
A line of Canada geese walking on a city sidewalk, viewed from behind.
Geese after crossing the street near Science World on June 17. Photos by Jackie Wong.

“Every year the goose population gets a little bit bigger,” said Dana McDonald, environmental stewardship co-ordinator at the Vancouver Park Board. “So every year there’s a few more geese pooping, and they poop every 12 minutes.”

The City of Vancouver recently spent $10,000 to buy a special goose pooper scooper, a cylindrical drum that can be towed behind a parks vehicle on a grassy field and, McDonald says, does a pretty good job of clearing the constant goose poop. She said parks staff are still testing out the pooper scooper and have noticed it works best in dry conditions. David Lam Park, Sunset Beach and English Bay are likely the locations that will get some attention from the pooper scooper this summer.

A parks vehicle tows a cylindrical black contraption with a Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation logo along the grass by the water.
The Vancouver Park Board shows off its $10,000 ‘goose pooper scooper.’ Image via X.

It’s only the latest tool in the city’s arsenal: for years, the park board has been sending staffers out in groups of two to four, to stealthily replace fertilized eggs with “addled” ones — eggs treated to be infertile, which will never become little geese. This birth control method doesn’t come without risk: in a 2021 Globe and Mail story, Ziggy Jones, a wildlife technician for the city, said she’s gotten concussions from aggressive male geese as she tries to swap eggs.

A Canada goose hisses at a dog being walked in a neighbourhood of low-rise apartments.
A goose hisses at a dog in Vancouver’s West End neighbourhood in April 2020. Photo by Jen St. Denis.

McDonald said the city now hires an outside contractor to do egg addling, an effort that removes around 800 eggs every year. But still, the goose population keeps growing, and McDonald is urging city residents to “goose-proof” rooftops and balconies to reduce the likelihood that geese will build nests.

“Geese like to nest in a flat area with some water. So people can install plants or shrubs or put up furniture,” McDonald said. “Remove water sources, basically make their roof uninhabitable to geese.”

The city has a special goose email address, to catch any and all complaints about the waddling fowl.

“If the goose does nest on your roof or balcony, you can report that nest.”

Geese aren’t the only animal under McDonald’s watch. She and her team are also responsible for coyotes in Stanley Park and the rabbits in Jericho Beach Park, and they support the Stanley Park Ecology Society with monitoring the local heron colony. Any “random” wildlife encounters with raccoons or beavers also cross her desk.

The geese have now had their babies and are in their “moult” stage, meaning they’ve lost their flight feathers and “are hanging around in grassy parks near water where they have food and they go into water to protect themselves from predators.” (Other than coyotes and perhaps a raccoon grabbing a gosling, there are no predators of the Canada geese in the city.)

“It’s a problem that we created really, by bringing this population here for a wildlife viewing,” said McDonald. “I think there’s a fine balance between having a population that is having impacts on [park] operations and really finding a way to coexist with this species of animals that is going to be here in perpetuity.”  [Tyee]

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