Baby geese bagged, removed
David Hogben and Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun
Published: Thursday, May 01, 2008
When Harold Mathes saw two women stuffing goslings into a sack on Granville Island Wednesday morning, his first thought was that he was witnessing a criminal act.
But when he ran out of his condo at 5:30 a.m. to confront them, Mathes was shocked to learn the women were involved in a Vancouver park board program to control the city's goose population.
"How do you think the mother feels? You think she doesn't feel anything?" Mathes said he asked the women. "My stomach is still turning."
"It's all about animals and how we treat animals."
The park board has been capturing geese, mostly goslings, since 2000 in an attempt to keep the city's goose population at about 300. The geese are then relocated to rural areas, such as Pitt Lake, park board wildlife supervisor Mike Mackintosh said.
Although Mackintosh said it's "not ideal" and the park board would rather not corral and relocate goslings, Mackintosh said the program is for the well-being of the geese as well as the city's human population.
Park board workers usually collect the geese early in the morning when they won't provoke as many negative responses from witnesses, he added.
"I am sure they are not terribly happy about being collected," he said. "It's one of those things [that's necessary] to keep the birds to a manageable level."
Before the program, the park board had been shaking goose eggs for more than two decades to control the population. By shaking the eggs, the geese will never hatch.
But Mackintosh said too many eggs were still being hatched in areas that were inaccessible to park board staff.
He said despite the immediate trauma of being separated from their parents, the relocated goslings will bond with other adults in their new location.
Bill Milsom, professor of zoology at the University of B.C., agreed birds, particularly young ones, are able to adapt to a new environment.
He noted geese typically imprint on the first thing they see, particularly after they hatch, but become independent shortly after.
He pointed out one study in which several geese imprinted themselves on a UBC grad student, and as "he was mom for a while, they would follow him everywhere."
In order to teach the birds to fly, they had the student ride a motorcycle so the birds would follow him.
About a week later, the imprint wore off and the birds started going their own way.
"The birds will adjust very rapidly to what's around them and very quickly they'll become independent," Milsom said.
Mackintosh said allowing the goose population to get out of control increases the risk of disease to them and can present potential health problems to humans.
Goose excrement has contributed to coliform levels which have closed Vancouver beaches, particularly at Sunset Beach, he said.
Milsom agreed there is potentially "always a little bit of a health risk" and added if the number of geese in the city gets too high, the birds could face food shortages or become the prey of raccoons and skunks. And by relocating them -- rather than shaking their eggs -- he said the birds will learn to fend for themselves and may even fly south for the winter.
"They are migratory but living is so easy, they don't move on," he said.
Although Milsom said the goslings should fare well, he wouldn't speculate on whether it was better for the geese to remain in the city or move to a rural area.
"It gets subjective," he said. "Which is a better life? Getting spoon-fed or having to fend for yourself?"
STOP VANCOUVER'S CRUEL SCHEME
Stealing goslings from their parents and relocating them to an unfamiliar location to fend for themselves is unquestionably an act of cruelty and exposes a lack of compassion and sensitivity on the part of those who are clearly not concerned for the goslings’ welfare.
Mike Mackintosh, Supervisor of Park Maintenance, Queen Elizabeth District, claims that “despite the immediate trauma of being separated from their parents, the relocated goslings will bond with other adults in their new location”. Mackintosh is “assuming” the goslings will survive long enough to bond with foster parents and that’s “assuming” there are adult geese in the relocation area willing to adopt the goslings. Adoption can not be guaranteed.
The goslings removed from Granville Island have little or no chance of surviving without their parents to defend them and teach them the ways of the wild. Vulnerable, the goslings will suffer an untimely and unnecessary death when preyed upon by predators.
In an attempt to justify relocating the goslings, Mackintosh also claims that allowing the goose population to get out of control increases the risk of disease to them and can present potential health problems to humans. Geese are a product of their environment, not the other way around. Furthermore, relocating the goslings cannot be justified based on the “potential” for human health problems. All animals, including humans, possess the “potential” for spreading disease. If we were to follow Mackintosh’s line of thought, we would all be walking around in astronaut-like space suites.
As for Mackintosh’s claim that goose excrement has contributed to coliform (E-coli) levels, which have closed Vancouver beaches, particularly at Sunset Beach, where’s the evidence definitively linking the coliform bacteria to the geese or is this just another assumption? Although elevated E-coli bacteria levels in bodies of water serve as an indicator of possible pollution by fecal material, the test used to determine bacteria levels does not determine whether or not the bacteria is of human or non-human origin and equally importantly, does not determine whether or not the bacteria is pathogenic (disease causing). Not all bacteria are pathogenic.
The immoral and unethical practice of stealing the goslings away from their parents and placing their lives in danger by relocating them is inexcusable and should not be tolerated.
Sharon Pawlak, Nat’l coordinatorCoalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese.