September 26, 2012
VICTORIA, BC, Sep 26, 2012/ Troy Media/ – What is North America’s most dangerous animal? No, it’s not the mighty grizzly bear or the sly cougar. If you ask the passengers and crew who amazingly survived US Airways flight 1549, the Canada goose would be top of mind.
Dubbed the ‘Miracle on the Hudson’, Pilot Chesley Sullenburger was forced to bring his plane down on the river in 2009 after a flock of the eight-pound birds knocked out all its engines. A recent report by the U.S. Department of Transportation cites Canada geese population growth as a serious danger to air traffic.
The fact that geese move in large and dense flocks makes catastrophic multiple engine failure more likely. The report lists other cases of serious damage to both civilian and military aircraft, stating that bird strikes are occurring at a rate five times higher that of 1990. Here in Canada, near disasters include a 2001 Porter Airways flight where a flock of geese damaged both propellers as it came in for a landing.
Given this increasingly serious threat to air safety, it’s surprising that commercial air operators and airport authorities haven’t launched a major campaign aimed at culling the geese population.
Air travel hazard isn’t the only reason that our namesake bird is increasingly reviled on both sides of the border. Parks and playgrounds littered with goose feces are both revolting and also a real health hazard, particularly to children. On the sandy beaches of Victoria’s beautiful Elk Lake, the home of Canada’s Olympic champion rowers, ‘health hazard, no swimming signs’ keep people out of the inviting summer waters. The geese have taken the lake away from the children, a situation repeated in parks and playgrounds across the country.
Amazingly, for almost a century, Canada Geese have been protected by the U.S./ Canada Migratory Birds Convention. Even though Canadian Wildlife officials recognize that the birds cause ‘unacceptable damage and danger’, getting official permission to cull them is fraught with bureaucracy. And the limited wild wet-lands seasonal hunting that is allowed has no impact on non-migrating urbanized residential populations.
Canada geese aren’t the only problematic species that thrive among us. Deer populations have exploded in many parts of the country, including here on southern Vancouver Island. And, as in the case of geese, deer present both a safety and commercial threat. A just-published report by a Citizen Advisory Group, appointed by the Greater Victoria Regional District, listed some 12,000 deer/vehicle collisions over the past decade, resulting in 21 fatalities, 2,200 injuries and millions of dollars in damage. The report also cited increasingly frequent cases of injury to adults and children due to aggressive behaviour, as well the risk of disease transmission.
This region is replete with small farms and market gardens growing a wide array of fruit and vegetables. Roadside produce stands along bucolic side roads are immensely popular with both tourists and locals. But alas, many farmers are losing so much of their crop to deer predation that their farms are no longer commercially viable.
The Citizen Advisory Group recommends that ‘population control measures should be carried out, in the most humane manner possible’. This is music to the ears of both farmers and deer-infested neighborhoods, yet there’s no assurance that common sense will weather the storm of protests from animal rights groups, including the so-called Earth-Animal Humane Education and Rescue Society which opposes what it terms ‘knee-jerk, trigger-happy immediate gratification’; and the Animal Alliance of Canada which is calling for ‘non-lethal, ethical and environmentally sensitive (control) methods’. Just how exploding populations can be reduced by ‘non-lethal methods’ is not articulated.
Ironically, many of these same activists tend to support the ’100 Mile Diet’ movement that considers locally produced food environmentally and nutritionally superior, while they simultaneously oppose the deer-culling measures needed to save local farmers from bankruptcy.
Both the pro and anti-cull camps state that the deer population should be reduced to ‘natural levels’. But human-dense regions are inherently ‘unnatural’ since we either deter or actually destroy predators found in the wild. Almost every week, cougars that have entered residential areas to feast on the lethargic and abundant deer are either tranquilized or shot.
Likewise, traditional geese predators such as coyotes are discouraged or eliminated due to attacks on cats and dogs. The reality is that there’s only one predator that can control urbanized geese and deer populations.
We need get on with that job, and soon.
Gwyn Morgan is a Canadian business leader and director of two global corporations.
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