An unusually large group of Canada Geese - more than 200 in a quick count - were in a field on 10th Avenue SW earlier this month, a small portion of which flew off with the approach of a human being. (Martha Wickett/Salmon Arm Observer)

Canada geese in the Shuswap: Beautiful milfoil eaters or poopy pests?

Numbers of geese increasing in the Shuswap to the joy of some people and dismay of others

A huge Canada goose convention, larger than the average gathering, was held in a Salmon Arm field recently.

A few residents, this reporter included, saw more than 200 geese covering the field at the corner of 10th and 10th SW, just across from Piccadilly Care Centre.

“I just loved it, I couldn’t get over the amount of geese,” remarked resident John McLeod. He’s seen geese in that field before, but not that many.

Ed McDonald with the Shuswap Naturalist Club said the flocks of geese are getting bigger every year.

“We really had no geese at all here in the 1960s; they were introduced and are more of an eastern species,” he says. “In the early 1900s they were shot so much for food. People were very worried they were going to become extinct.”

Read more: Alberta golf cart driver runs over and kills two geese

Read more: Replay – The best videos from across B.C. this week

The foreshore of Shuswap Lake was turned into a goose management area.

“It was used to try to bring the geese back. We were too successful… Be careful what you wish for,” he adds with a chuckle.

He said they seem to enjoy places where people don’t really want them – like golf courses.

“I don’t think farmers mind them in a field; I guess they put nutrients in the soil… A lot of times they will eat in the fields, and will fly to the foreshore for bedtime. They don’t sleep right out in the field, but find a place along the bay. They often go into the water in the morning.

Regarding farmers, John McLeod says it depends on who you talk to. Some don’t mind, some do.

Jerry Thompson, owner of the field on 10th Avenue SW, said they come to his fields in the spring and again in the fall. They’ll hang around for anywhere from one to four weeks, and then be on their way. Sometimes the crowd is large, sometimes not. He doesn’t mind them.

“They probably eat a fair amount of grass; I don’t think they’re that terrible.”

McDonald said geese migrate to some degree. There are a few subspecies, some smaller ones in the north. For winter they will head south into the U.S.

Read more: Don’t feed birds in the parking lot

Read more: Love of wildlife inspires art

Read more: 2017 – Osprey dive bombs goose nest

During Christmas bird counts in the Shuswap, a fairly large number of Canada geese usually stay, he says.

As long as there’s open water, they’ll hang around. If the lake and ground are covered with snow, they won’t.

“They’re water fowl. They need water to float around in.”

Regarding lake quality, Erin Vieira at the Shuswap Watershed Council says feces from any warm-blooded creature – from dogs to geese – can carry bacteria, as can septic systems. She said management plans can be set up to keep large flocks away from popular swimming beaches.

One plant Canada geese like to eat is European milfoil, which has made itself at home in Shuswap Lake and is visible near the surface. Its introduction into the lake may have played a part in the increasing numbers of geese and swans, McDonald surmises. With their long necks, both species can duck their heads down to reach it.

The internet provides one more interesting tidbit. Canada geese have a penchant for blueberries.

@SalmonArm
marthawickett@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Last-minute hiring means Salmon Arm’s emergency shelter can remain open

Salvation Army’s Lighthouse shelter to stay open beyond normal closing date of April 1

Salmon Arm’s paving, pothole patching programs to begin in May

Long hard winter takes toll on roads, street cleaning underway

UPDATE: 6.5-magnitude earthquake in Idaho shakes B.C. Interior

An earthquake was reportedly felt just before 5 p.m. throughout the Okanagan

North Okanagan-Shuswap MP donating raise to support food banks, women’s shelters

Mel Arnold said pay increase legislation didn’t account for a crisis like COVID-19

COVID-19: Non-profit 3D printing face shields for local hospital

‘The response has been completely overwhelming’

B.C. records five new COVID-19 deaths, ‘zero chance’ life will return to normal in April

Province continue to have a recovery rate of about 50 per cent

Community drums up support for North Okanagan hospital workers

Even health care workers and fellow first responders turned out to show love

South Okanagan first responders salute hospital workers

“You’re awesome” and “Thank you” say Penticton first responders, passing by emergency entrance

John Horgan extends B.C.’s state of emergency for COVID-19

Premier urges everyone to follow Dr. Bonnie Henry’s advice

B.C.’s first community COVID-19 death was dentist ‘dedicated’ to health: lawyer

Vincent was 64 when he died on March 22 after attending the Pacific Dental Conference

Two inmates at prison housing Robert Pickton test positive for COVID-19

Correctional Service of Canada did not release any details on the identities of the inmates

‘April Fools’ social media prank leads to criminal investigation in Osoyoos

Post claims individuals will be canvassing door to door seeking housing for seasonal workers

Stay inside vehicles on Interior ferry crossings to prevent spread of COVID-19: B.C. government

Glade, Kootenay and Arrow Lakes some of the ferry crossings in Interior

COVID-19 case confirmed at restaurant in Cache Creek: Interior Health

Customers who visited the site from March 25 to 27 are asked to self-isolate

Most Read