Local farmers may soon get a reprieve from geese damaging their crops, as Saanich council has voiced support for reducing the non-migratory geese population.
On Monday, council unanimously supported a report directing district staff to review a recommendation from Juan de Fuca Electoral Area regional director Mike Hicks. It would amend the firearms bylaw to allow hunting of geese on farmland to prevent damage to crops.
The report was brought to Monday’s meeting by Coun. Fred Haynes, who noted the number of geese in the region could increase 10-fold in 20 years if the district doesn’t do something to cull the population.
“We have 6,000 right now, and what they’ve seen with the large number of geese on the ground here, it’s attracting other species of geese, not just the Canadian geese,” he said. “The non-migratory population of geese is on a trajectory to significantly increase.”
Haynes highlighted the negative economic impact on farmers, both from geese eating their crops and the inability to harvest crops if the geese have defecated on the land.
Under the current bylaw, if a farmer shoots geese to reduce pests, the meat can’t be eaten. The amendment would implement a Crop Damage Permit, allowing hunters to shoot five to 10 birds per week, while farmers would be allowed to shoot up to 10 birds per day – all of which could be eaten.
“If we’re going to stand behind our farmers, we need to listen to what they’re asking for,” said Haynes, asking that the amendment be processed in a timely fashion to take effect in the current farming season.
Coun. Vic Derman, who is the Saanich council liaison for the Peninsula and Area Agricultural Committee, said the geese population is an ongoing topic at the commission.
“Hardly a meeting goes by where two or three farmers don’t report the fact they’ve planted a field, and in a day or two, everything was gone,” he said. “Agriculture in this area is important. It’s had a struggle over the years to be financially viable, and I think it’s very important that predators of agriculture – in this case, geese – are properly managed.”
While Couns. Vicki Sanders and Dean Murdock expressed concern with hunting on farmland adjacent to residential neighbourhoods, they ultimately supported the amendment and trusted that due care would be taken on the part of hunters.