Kill the geese! Kill the geese! save a salmon…?

The east coast Vancouver Island goose plot thickens. First those pesky critters cause planes to crash in the U.S. … now they’re destroying a neighborhood near you. Mark Hume in the Globe and Mail:

Bird lover advocates eradication of Canada geese

As a leading bird expert and a lifetime bird lover, Neil Dawe is the most unlikely advocate of a radical new idea that is calling for “the eradication” of virtually every Canada goose on the east coast of Vancouver Island.

“I don’t like doing it. They are beautiful birds. But what I am saying is we messed up and it’s urgent that we take action,” said the retired Canadian Wildlife Service biologist, who thinks wiping out the Island’s 15,000 resident geese can’t happen soon enough.

“You can cull the population, but that takes time, or you can eradicate the population … rounding them up during the summer molt,” he said. “Nobody likes talking about it, but it has to be addressed. They have exceeded the carrying capacity of the ecosystem.”

Hmmm. Geese exceeding the carrying capacity of the ecosystem…?

I recognize they can be a nuisance… many farmers get excited about them eating fresh seed in the spring and so on. But really… could we not have a bit more measured discussion about this. Such as, how did the geese get there in the first place?

Oh right, we humans introduced a non-migrating form of these geese earlier in the 1900s. Brilliant.

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For 31 years, Mr. Dawe managed national migratory bird sanctuaries on Vancouver Island, publishing more than 80 scientific papers and co-authoring the encyclopedic, four-volume tome, The Birds of British Columbia.

He noticed the estuaries he’d first seen in the 1970s were radically changed by the 1990s and a few years ago set out to find out why. Working with Andy Stewart, a biologist in Victoria, and Ron Buechert, a Qualicum Beach biologist, the researchers have confirmed, in two papers that are not yet published, that Canada geese are the prime cause of widespread habitat degradation.

Before the great goose kill of 2011 begins… maybe we should look at a few other factors in the estuary degradation. Like, maybe, what was the human population of Vancouver Is. in 1970 as compared to the 1990s, and now?

Or… maybe look at some of the efforts of eel grass planting in other areas. Or… Or…

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Mr. Buechert, who examined the Englishman River estuary, said his findings of habitat damage mirror those of Mr. Dawe’s on the Little Qualicum. “We are talking huge changes in the vegetation; massive areas; many hectares,” he said.

Mr. Buechert said he’d like to see hunting encouraged, but it might not be possible in some estuaries, because of nearby housing.

Hmmm, I don’t imagine all those folks in nearby housing have had any impact on the estuaries?

Is there any ‘eradication’ proposed for those growing suburban multiple thousands of square footage, breadbox neighborhoods? (which in turn flush their toilets, and wash their cars, and the occasional spillage at the gas station that ends out in nearby estuaries, or the increased run-off due to the local WalMart parking lot…)

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“many hectares” is considered “massive areas”?

What does that, then, make all the clearcuts on the upper slopes of these watersheds? (which might very well be the cause of increased silting of the estuaries).

Or, maybe increased acidification of the Salish Sea (Georgia Strait) might be playing a part too?

Or, increased pollution levels?

That’s not the geese’s fault, is it?

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating a position similar to folks that flip out about the proposed rabbit kill at the University of Victoria. I’m not a contributing member of PETA, or even the local enviro organization.

It’s the somewhat ridiculous-ness (with respect to the researchers quoted here) of simply proposing another narrow-viewed human intervention to a problem we created in the first place.

Narrow-viewed folks introduced geese in the first place — just like the deer, raccoon, squirrel, rats, and other species introduced to places like Haida Gwaii (formerly referred to as: Queen Charlotte Is.) — for narrow-viewed reasons e.g., increase hunting opps, or to be predators of previously introduced species…

It’s not all that different than the raging debate over wild salmon vs. use of hatcheries to augment wild runs.

Or re-introducing species like wolves to an area, then, a few years later proposing culls or sterilization because wolves are killing cattle, or too many moose, etc.

Or building communities in prime cougar habitat then flipping out when they kill the family dog in the wooded backyard.

There must be some other ideas out there that take into account the wider impacts?

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It’s a mirror image of the great search these days for the great salmon killer — must have been the seals… must have been he squid… must have been the mackerel… must have been the ocean currents.

Well, sure, all of those probably play a part — but are they THE reason? No.

We are – for the most part.

It’s like some biblical prophecy gone wrong.

Man has dominion over the earth. Thou shalt introduce animal species wherever thou pleases… Oh wait… (a few decades later) thou shalt cull thous’ introduced animal species because they are a scourge upon the estuary.

Thou shalt throw $75,000 (or so) at the issue and presto thous’ estuary is healed… and the salmon fry will prosper and, thus, thou will prosper.

There’s a reason why nature is often referred to as: The “Wild”.

You know… that word that has a variety of definitions, such as:

Lacking supervision or restrain“;

marked by extreme lack of restraint or control”;

Lacking regular order or arrangement; disarranged“;

Based on little or no evidence or probability; unfounded.

Or one of my favorites: A natural or undomesticated state.

Hmmm…. all of these seem to suggest that maybe we’re just a cog in the gears, or a little screw in the mechanics — not the one driving the bus.

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Maybe a little wider camera angle on this would prove more fruitful? Or, as the saying goes, maybe we should stand on the balcony and look at this issue from a little further back… as opposed to up to our knees in mud and goose shit.

This continued interventionist view, as if we humans can really “fix” the issues we are largely responsible for in the first place, is akin to sending the population of Prince George to pee on summer wildfires burning pine beetle killed forests.

Or, introducing policies through the United Nations to stop all cattle on the planet from farting and thus reduce greenhouse gases.

Or, telling all the latest leadership candidates in BC politics to stop blowing so much hot air and thus reducing coastal erosion due to increased storm events and climate change. (or maybe suggesting they actually talk about things that matter)

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When it comes to living in “the wild”, maybe a little more adaptation and a little less useless mitigation efforts might be the way to go?

Just a thought… or did I get your goose?

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