‘Hyper-abundant’ wildlife brings call for senior governments to help

Squirrels and deer and geese, oh my. …

It’s past time for senior governments to step in to help local governments deal with “hyper-abundant wildlife,” say some Capital Regional District directors.

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Problem geese are once again in the sights of the CRD’s environment committee, which is advocating that the CRD board press senior governments for more resources to deal with the problem birds.

But some directors argued Wednesday the province should be helping with all manner of wildlife whose populations are exploding.

Deer are a huge problem on the Gulf Islands, said Salt Spring Island electoral area director Gary Holman, noting there are an estimated 6,000 deer on Salt Spring Island alone.

“Perhaps we should be lobbying to change hunting regulations as well. Mayne Island is being overrun with fallow deer which escaped from a farming operation, and the province is sloughing that responsibility,” Holman said, noting that it’s difficult for local governments to know when to step in.

“Essentially what we’re talking about here is the regional district and local governments — as with abandoned boats — stepping into a vacuum that senior governments should be taking responsibility for,” he said.

“It’s always a quandary. Do we wait for senior government to do their job or do we step into the vacuum and spend local taxpayers’ money to do the job they should be doing?”

Metchosin Mayor John Ranns, an organic farmer, said grey squirrels are the bane of his existence these days.

“Right now, I’m inundated with grey squirrels and they are having a serious impact on our berry crops, and I mean a serious impact. We’ve lost significant revenues because of the grey squirrels,” Ranns said, adding that Metchosin is having problems with larger pests as well.

“Bears are continuing to cause a problem. There was a 300-pound ram that was carried off by a great big black bear right next to my place,” Ranns said. He said five residents have lost sheep to marauding bears and “they’re on the increase.”

CRD chair Colin Plant said not enough is being done to manage geese, adding that it may be time for the CRD to consider creating a service to deal with “hyper-abundant” wildlife such as geese and deer.

“The status quo is not enough for me and for the residents I hear from,” Plant said.

“As much as this may seem that it’s coming out of left field a little bit, if we want to have significant food security, the farmers I know are telling me geese are a problem. The status quo is not enough.”

Juan de Fuca director Mike Hicks said geese are “an issue unto themselves” and should be a management priority. CRD staff estimate there are between 4,000 and 6,000 Canada geese in the region.

The geese are such a problem for farmers, golf courses and sports fields, Hicks said, that if every other invasive animal is included, it would “water down” a management program.

The committee ultimately decided to recommend the CRD board advocate to senior levels of government for resources, including policy, programs, research and funding “to maintain and enhance the scope and scale of non-migratory goose management.”

Staff are to report back in a year on progress.

bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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