The Nelson public works department uses a drone to scare geese away from the playing fields at Lakeside Park.
“A lot of municipalities have problems with geese,” says Nelson’s public works supervisor Karen MacDonald.
“Some other communities are going to try using a drone. We are the first community that has.”
Geese have been in the news recently because of speculation that geese are the reason for some high E. coli counts at Lakeside beach. Although one very high reading was discounted as a sampling error, two others earlier in the summer were well above the accepted limit.
“It is so unhygienic and dangerous for little kids who might fall,” says Nelson Youth Soccer soccer executive director Sveta Tisma. “They might not wash their hands and then start licking them, it gets on your clothes, then gets in your car when you go home, so I would love to see that problem solved.”
Tisma says he gets complaints from soccer players and parents.
“The city has tried different things, but no one has come up with a permanent solution that works,” he said.
He admits that some of the city’s three solutions — a drone, a noisemaker, and a turf sweeper — work to some extent. But all of these have to be done regularly because the geese come back.
Also, they get used to the scare tactics and ignore them, says MacDonald.
“You have to switch it up,” she says, “because geese are pretty smart. If they see you driving up with a white truck they usually fly off.”
The playing fields are owned by the city and leased by Nelson Youth Soccer and other sports organizations.
MacDonald says the number of geese increases every year because people feed them.
“You try to tell them to stop and you get told to ‘foxtrot off,’” she said.
The city also uses a turf sweeper that picks up the droppings. The city runs this in the soccer fields and along the beach twice a week.
Tisma likes the turf sweeper but says its effect is temporary.
“It takes a while to pick all that up, it is hours of work, and then the geese come back,” he says. “They are so used to us that when we are having a game, they move to the field right beside us.”
A Google search turns up many stories of municipalities across the continent struggling with geese, including goose culls, which are always controversial.
MacDonald says geese are a protected species and to cull them they’d need a permit from the Ministry of the Environment. But she says in Nelson the idea would be a non-starter.
“I think there would be quite a bit of public outcry. There are people out there who don’t even want us harassing them, either with scarers or chasing them off.”
But there are also people on the other side of the argument.
“We have lots of people saying get rid of them, mostly at the soccer fields because so many kids are down there playing.”