Richmond pets being enlisted in fowl fight

Dog owners are being asked to volunteer to help in the battle against snow geese. - Chung Chow file photo
Dog owners are being asked to volunteer to help in the battle against snow geese.
— image credit: Chung Chow file photo

City officials are turning to resident Rovers and local Lassies for help in managing the annual scourge of snow geese.

Richmond is looking for volunteer dog handlers with well-trained dogs, medium to large in size, to help scare snow geese from city parks from November to April.

Each fall, an estimated 100,000 of the white birds fly 4,000 kilometres to the Fraser River delta to escape their frigid winter home in Wrangel Island, Russia. By year's end, the birds head farther south to the Skagit delta before returning here in the spring en route to their Russian home.

In Richmond, the geese traditionally feed on intertidal marsh plants, but in recent years they've moved inland, feeding on farmers' fields, parks, sports fields and even residential backyards—leaving muddy, goose-poop land behind.

City officials have tried fireworks, air pistols, lasers, military-grade lights and professional dog-handlers in a bid to scare the birds away. The city has also offered farmers in southwest Richmond cash to grow winter cover crops that attract the geese and keep them away from unwanted sites.

Now, local pets are being enlisted for the 2012-2013 fowl fight.

According to the city, volunteers will be allowed to run their dogs off-leash on school fields of Steves, Grauer, London-Steveston, Gilmore, Dixon, Quilchena, Thompson and Burnett.

Volunteers will be trained by "a professional snow geese dog hazer" before they receive a vest allowing them to run their dogs from 4 p.m. to dusk weekdays and 9 a.m. to dusk on weekends.

The dogs, according to the posting, should "encourage" the geese to leave the fields, but should avoid physical contact with the geese

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