What to do?

Posted November 10th, 2010 by kcorliss. Comment (0).

Canada geese are again in the news (StatemanJournal.com) out in the land of relatives, Oregon. For reasons which are largely unknown, part of the Alaska-breeding flock has taken to wintering in the Willamette Valley in recent times in lieu of their old stomping grounds in California’s Central Valley. Well, the farmers in Oregon aren’t too pleased because the geese are doing what geese do: eating crops. Some of the numbers in the story are iffy at best: “Turner-area farmer Mike Bielenberg said that last year, geese ruined 35 acres of wheat worth $171,000.” As cousin Bill points out, “no way that is true, maybe $35,000 tops.” Still, there is predation of crops happening and it’s costing individual farmers in the form of lost revenue as well as tax dollars for the state.

With this situation as a backdrop–an estimated 300,000 wintering Canada geese–the Goose Control Task Force was formed in 2009. This fall, partially as a result of the task force’s recommendations, Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife Commission is widening hunting opportunities in the form of an expanded season and compensating landowners for hunting access.

That may ease the problem but it won’t eliminate it. There might be other techniques to try–pyrotechnics, birds of prey (real or robotic), alternate crops, etc., but none are 100% effective and it will cost the farmers dollars. I’m not intimate with crop insurance, is bird predation on the list of allowable claims? Like we do with snow geese, could an elevated daily/possession limit be tried?

These are not easy problems to solve once all the political cats-and-dogs weigh in. Here’s a rubberstamp response from one: 

Mary Bliss, director of Turtle Ridge Wildlife Center in Salem, said more hunting isn’t the answer: “There are nonlethal methods to prevent the geese from destroying any fields.”
Um no, there really aren’t. You can’t prevent it, you can only mitigate it. And by the way, who’s to pay for this “prevention?”
The best quote from the story?:

Wildlife enthusiast Forrest Anderson…”I don’t believe in killing animals, particularly birds,” he said. “But I’m not a farmer, and (geese) are not destroying my crops.”

Exactly. It’s oh so easy to preach when you aren’t a stakeholder. I feel for the farmers here, it’s their livlihood after all. It’s another one of those difficult man vs. nature issues we face all the time. But we are not talking about an endangered species. And don’t forget, the issue of landowner rights also looms large. I say open the season every day of the week and let hunters take increased bag limits. Eventually the birds will get the idea and go elsewhere, ideally back to California.

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