A Windsor-Essex bird sanctuary is taking in unwanted geese from Mississauga, Ont. and Oakville, Ont. and giving them a new home.
“There’s only one place on earth people really want to see Canada geese and that’s at Jack Miner’s,” said Mary Baruth, the executive director of the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville, Ont.
The sanctuary has partnered with the two communities to take the geese out of their urban settings, where they are considered a nuisance, and help them migrate and move on into the wild, away from the municipalities from which they came.
The sanctuary took in about 1,000 geese in June and Baruth said the waterfowl have been popular with visitors.
“People are flocking, so to speak, to see them,” she said.
“People will come from Windsor — the same people who don’t like the geese on the waterfront — they will come here, and they’re like, ‘It’s so beautiful to see all the geese in their natural setting.'”
‘They overrun, overpopulate’
Both Mississauga and Oakville officials said Canada geese have created issues for their municipalities for years.
Mary George, manager of park operations for Mississauga, explained that the animals can be messy, they destroy turf, and all-in-all, are a “detriment for the park lands.”
Chris Mark, director of parks and open space with the Town of Oakville, echoed George’s sentiments.
“They overrun, overpopulate our waterfront parks,” he said.
That’s why the two municipalities have been relocating geese for the last 20 years. Previously, Mississauga and Oakville had been sending the fowl to a sanctuary near Aylmer, Ont., but were told the site was running out of room. As a result, they turned to Jack Miner instead.
Mark said the program has been working.
“We do see a tremendous decline in the amount of goose presence, and goose poop on our turf areas, on our walkways.”
Birds are banded
The geese were relocated to Kingsville via transport truck, and many of the birds were banded with a Jack Miner band and a Canada Wildlife Service band.
“This enables us to be able to track their migratory patterns, and what we hope is the urban geese will come into contact with some northern geese who are a little bit wilder and hook up with their flock and then move on to their southern wintering places,” said Baruth.
She added that part of the appeal for the municipalities is that the geese are relocated to a place that also serves as an educational program.
“It gives us the opportunity to talk about resident geese and migratory geese and about their migratory patterns here, and gets people to see them up close and see that they’re really not that mean, except for during nesting season.”
This isn’t the first year that the sanctuary has taken in geese from other municipalities. For two years, St. Catharines, Ont. also sent its geese to the site, but they weren’t able to participate this year, Baruth explained.
She said she’s willing to take on even more geese.
“The city of Windsor is welcome to talk to us about bringing their urban geese out,” she said.
‘Very intelligent birds’
The relocation is done in partnership with Canadian Wildlife Service. A spokesperson for the agency said it provides a permit and best practices guidance, but does not directly oversee relocations.
The service said in addition to Mississauga and Oakville, relocation does occur in other cities across Canada, but that most geese relocation permits are issued in southern Ontario.
“If you’d ask me 10 years ago if I thought I would ever love the Canada goose, I probably would have laughed,” Baruth said.
“But they’re very intelligent birds. They have a long memory. I have some that I … over the years had to treat for issues and they’ve come back in the spring with their partners, and they recognize you and they recognize your voice. And I have a real appreciation for them.
Officials from Oakville and Mississauga said they’re pleased with the partnership and they hope to see it continue on a long-term basis.