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Kitchener's goose population control program humane, expert says
In recent days, hundreds of people have expressed anger online with the City of Kitchener’s actions to control the goose population in Victoria Park.
City officials say they’ve also fielded phone calls from people angry with the city hiring a contractor to remove newly laid eggs and move geese to other locations.
A petition asking the city to stop those practices had garnered more than 600 signatures as of Friday morning.
But despite all of that outrage, city officials say they have no plans to change their program – and at least one expert in the field is backing them up.
Vernon Thomas, an associate professor emeritus in the University of Guelph’s integrative biology department, says practices like those undertaken in Victoria Park are common in areas with goose issues, and are humane.
“Where there’s a problem of overpopulation, a means to control it could be the removing of eggs,” he said in an interview.
“It has been happening for several decades in a number of jurisdictions in Ontario.”
Overpopulation is the concern that caused city officials to launch a goose control program in the park in the first place.
In 2007, City of Kitchener natural areas co-ordinator Josh Shea said Friday, city hall was getting complaints from residents because “300 to 500” geese were using the park on a regular basis.
“There are still a number of geese that use the site, but it’s at a manageable or lower level (now),” he said.
Ben King is a director with animal advocacy group KW Animal Save.
He calls the city’s practices “unacceptable,” saying that his experiences in the park suggest it doesn’t have a serious problem with goose overpopulation.
“We’ve built so much on top of where these geese used to live. They need somewhere to be, and yet we … just kill the unborn baby eggs,” he says.
Shea says eggs are only destroyed prior to incubation, meaning “there’s no bird inside of the egg at that point.”
King says that’s still a problem, because a gosling would develop if the egg were left alone.
He also takes issue with relocating geese, calling it a “waste of taxpayers’ money” given they could always return on their own.
“These geese fly thousands of miles away every year, and come right back to this spot because this is their home,” he said.
“It accomplishes nothing.”
If the city does feel the need to curb the goose population, King says he would rather see it happen through “more humane” measures like sensors or pinwheels that could scare them away, or growing tall grass near the river – which he says will also keep the geese away, because they won’t be able to tell if predators are coming.
Since the controversy came to light, the city has added information about its goose control program to its website.