Snow geese days numbered? Coun. Harold Steves suggests re-opening hunting on dyke

 A women watches some of the thousands of snow geese that are currently at Terra Nova. One local politician says the birds are wrecking local farmland and the population needs to be reduced. -  Mark Patrick photo
A women watches some of the thousands of snow geese that are currently at Terra Nova. One local politician says the birds are wrecking local farmland and the population needs to be reduced.
— image credit: Mark Patrick photo

Shoot them, addle their eggs, create new habitat or let them starve to death.

Those are the options, according to Coun. Harold Steves, to deal with the burgeoning population of snow geese that fly into Richmond and Delta each fall.

“It’s not an easy one,” he said.

Steves recently tabled a report at city council’s planning committee on protecting and managing Richmond and Delta farmland and wetlands.

The Richmond Review raised the prospect of an ecological disaster a year ago due to a population spike of migratory birds.

A snow goose population that flies into the region each fall is expected to number 100,000. Already the geese have eaten themselves out of the Sturgeon Banks habitat and have cleaned out farmers’ fields and natural land in Terra Nova.

A warming climate on Wrangel Island in Russia—breeding grounds for snow geese—has created more habitat for the birds there.

But with more of them flying into depleting lands in the Fraser Delta—the expansion of Deltaport will occupy even more habitat land—snow geese and farmers are heading into trying times.

Steves suggests re-opening hunting on Sturgeon Banks is one step to begin to decrease the population—which he said would need to be cut in half to match the available habitat.

“The only way they can do that is go up to Wrangel Island and addle the eggs of 50,000 geese every summer, and they’d have to do that for 10 years or so to reduce the flock, and that’s a major undertaking.”

Canadian Wildlife Service has been tracking the growing snow geese population for years.

Snow geese over-wintering in the Fraser-Skagit at one time numbered 20,000. Last year the number was about 83,000.

“The main message I’m trying to get across is we destroyed half the habitat when we developed west Richmond, now they’re going to destroy the other half when they develop the Roberts Bank super port,” Steves said.

And letting nature simply run its course will mean tens of thousands of starving birds dying in the region, he said.

He said a long ago proposal of moving Richmond’s west dyke farther west for more farmland would create new habitat for the geese.

“That’s the solution again today. It’s the only way to not witness thousands of birds dying of starvation,” he said. “But that’s an expensive proposition.”

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