A number of geese from the Craig Bay area were harvested (killed and their meat collected) as part of a City of Parksville goose management and estuary rehabilitation program the week of June 18. — Tony Markle Photo

A number of geese from the Craig Bay area were harvested (killed and their meat collected) as part of a City of Parksville goose management and estuary rehabilitation program the week of June 18. — Tony Markle Photo

City, enviro group harvest Canada geese from waters near Parksville

Number of geese captured, killed, meat given to local First Nations week of June 18

A number of Canada geese were captured from the waters of Craig Bay in late June and killed, with their meat going to local First Nations, according to the City of Parksville.

The harvest (not termed a cull as all the meat gets used, said the city’s communications manager, Deb Tardiff) took place as part of the third and final year of a goose management and estuary revitalization process undertaken by the City of Parksville with the help of the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries, along with local First Nations and the provincial government.

With geese molting, and so unable to fly, they were caught in the waters of Craig Bay from kayaks, said Tardiff, who said she did not know how many geese were harvested, though it was less than the number allowed through the various permits received for the harvest. No goslings were rounded up as part of the harvest, she said. “That just doesn’t happen.”

“These are non-migratory birds. These birds are resident here,” she said, adding that they do and have done a lot of damage to estuaries in the area.

According to the Guardians of Mid-Island Estuaries’ 2015 management strategy document, the geese have overgrazed mid-Island estuarine marshes, which are important habitats for coastal fish and other wildlife. The overgrazing led to erosion of the marsh platform, with platforms washing away and leaving some channels shallow, while some productive habitats had been reduced to gravel.

The first time the city had Canada geese killed as part of their three-year program was in 2016, with 484 birds taken from the Englishmen River estuary and killed. At that time, members of the K’omoks First Nation cut breast meat out of some of the birds, but not all meat was used.

“It’s made a big difference to the Englishman River estuary, and it’s also made a difference to playing fields and parks, but mostly it’s damage to the estuary which then effects the salmon which effects a lot of things,” said Tardiff.

Last year, a goose harvest took place where 100 birds were taken from the Little Qualicum River estuary. The meat from those birds was used, said Tardiff.

The harvest in Craig Bay aroused some suspicion from at least one Craig Bay Community resident, Tony Markle, who contacted The NEWS saying that six Canada goose families that frequent the ponds in the community had disappeared, and that he suspected a cull but had not received any info from the city.

Markle noted that other residents of the area had also told him they had not been told of any goose cull or harvest taking place, calling the city “deceitful.”

Markle later forwarded an email from the Craig Bay Residents’ Association, giving residents some details about the goose harvest after “recent concerns raised about a possible cull of geese” in Craig Bay Estates, which may have included goslings. Goslings were not included in the harvest, said Tardiff, and the harvest took place in the ocean waters of Craig Bay.

“The only thing we can say to people is this was a long-term plan to protect the estuary,” said Tardiff. “The Englishman River Estuary, there wasn’t a whole lot left at the mouth where it sort of goes into the strait because of the damage, and it was shifting.

“The silt was moving out, so that was the reason the city undertook this, based on the knowledge of the Guardians, their scientific knowledge over a period of time. That’s why this is done.

“I truly understand that this may be difficult for some people to understand, but it’s really done as part of a long-term plan to protect the estuaries.”

Tardiff noted that, in the past, the city had tried to deal with geese by using expensive goose poop scooping machines, an eagle named Eddie, and dogs who would attempt to chase away the geese. She noted that Canada geese eggs continue to be addled (to terminate embryo development) as part of the management effort.