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A few unhatched geese destined for destruction have been saved by the bell as a Winnipeg university has decided to pause its egg-culling program after people complained about the practice.
Concerns about the cull arose after a university employee told CBC News that workers were using baseball bats to crack the eggs around the U of M's Fort Garry campus in south Winnipeg.
University of Manitoba spokesman John Danakas said Wednesday afternoon that the school "has taken action to stop any culling of the goose population on campus until we can identify the best possible — the most humane — way to deal with the increasing goose population."
"It's coming to our attention today, and so it's not something that we're comfortable with," Danakas said, when asked at what point it became clear that crews were cracking eggs with bats.
"This is a community that cares deeply about wildlife. Wildlife on campus are an enhancement to the Fort Garry campus especially, so we're committed to finding the best way to ensure the safety of our university community and find the best possible means to manage the goose population."
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Every spring, gaggles of geese descend on the University of Manitoba campus to forage on — and fertilize — its neatly groomed grasses. Many of the birds also nest near campus walkways or in planters.
Despite the fact that geese have become squawking seasonal fixtures on lawns and in parks and other green spaces, the birds have a wild side that can make them dangerous to students and staff.
Geese can be very protective parents and have lashed out and hurt people on campus a few times in the past, said Danakas.
That's one reason why the university hired a contractor this year to thin out the next generation of curious goslings before they spring forth from their shells and start waddling through campus with their much larger parents in tow.
"There have been numerous incidents of aggressive goose behaviour on campus, including one near the daycare and one that resulted in the injury [of] a staff person" who slipped and hurt their wrist while trying to get away from a goose, Danakas said in a statement issued earlier Wednesday.
The university initially looked at relocating the nests, Danakas said, but was told the geese would simply return to the same spot.
He said other methods of deterring the geese were attempted, including putting up decoys to encourage the geese to nest in low-traffic areas in campus.
But for high-traffic areas, the university turned to cracking of the eggs in the nest, "a method we understand is used in many jurisdictions," Danakas said in his statement.
Egg culling suspended
As of Wednesday, though, the university has asked its contractor to discontinue the egg-culling program, Danakas said, adding there have only been a few complaints in recent days about the practice.
The methods used by the contractor are approved by Environment Canada as a way of controlling aggressive geese populations in urban areas, he said.
Manitoba's Wildlife Amendment Act states eggs of game birds can only be destroyed by licensed officials or for educational or scientific purposes.
"The university has sought to educate the campus community on co-existing with the geese," Danaks said.
"The [U of M] will consult with Environment Canada to work out the best way forward, assuring the safety of the community and dealing with the goose population in the most appropriate manner possible."