Saanich pressured to ban bird cannons

Rarely used, but propane noisemakers help save crops, says farmer

When Canada geese were continually attacking blueberry crops at Beckwith Farm in 2010, the farm launched its bird predation plan – which includes a noise cannon.

“The predator kites and other visual deterrents had no effect on the Canada geese,” said Wayne Hopkins, president of Beckwith Farm. “These geese were landing and eating the leaves. They killed somewhere around 12,000 plants in a matter of a few days. It all happened very quickly, so we had to employ noise devices very quickly.”

One such device was a propane cannon, which, when fired, creates a 130 decibel bang to scare birds away. The birds aren’t too fond of the noise, and neighbours near the farm aren’t either.

“It defies common sense to use propane cannons as a bird deterrent 200m from urban homes in long established Saanich neighbourhoods,” reads a brochure from the Concerned Neighbours of Beckwith Farm organization.

“The noise generated by propane cannons firing 200m from urban homes is debilitating to a large number of residents … causing significant impacts to health, livelihood and happiness.”

No propane cannons have gone off at the Blenkinsop Valley farm since 2010, and Hopkins credits that to the predation management plan. Cannons are used as a last-ditch effort when visual deterrents and other audible devices don’t work.

But neighbours aren’t content that there’s a chance the cannons could go off again, at any time, in the event of a new flock of birds swarms onto the nearby crops.

Saanich councillors Susan Brice and Nichola Wade brought forward a motion at Monday’s council meeting asking staff to look at options regarding cannons to mitigate friction between neighbours and the farm.

“The two of us feel we’re very supportive of agriculture in Saanich, however it is an inappropriate mechanism to use propane cannons in such a proximate distance to residential developments,” Wade said.

The two councillors mentioned ongoing frustrations dealing with the provincial government, as the use of propane cannons comes under the Ministry of Agriculture’s authority, and the Right to Farm legislation trumps municipal bylaws.

“Anything that can be explored that’s going to give the neighbours in this area some relief is worth putting on the table,” said Coun. Dean Murdock.

Hopkins says Saanich’s intervening is all politicking, and he anticipates the municipality won’t be able to get far with the province.

“The fact is (propane cannons are) a last report, and unless Saanich or whoever has a better alternative as a last resort, I think they’re here to stay,” Hopkins said.

Council unanimously agreed to have staff look into options.

kslavin@saanihnews.com

 

 

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