Canada geese have destroyed hundreds of thousands of dollars in research at the Central Experimental Farm in recent years, so much so that border collies have now been hired to keep the pesky birds away.
"It's very frustrating, it's depressing," said Marc Savard, director of operations for Eastern Cereal and Oilseed Research Centre.
About 10 scientists manage 400 hectares of land at the farm, where they grow corn, soy beans, barley and wheat, among other crops. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada representatives said they have tried everything to scare off the birds, including decoys and human patrols, to no avail.
In just a single weekend, the birds destroyed one scientist's entire oat crop, Savard said.
"These scientists are really devoted to their work. It's their life's work. And for them it's a big, big disappointment," he said.
"The scientist came back on Monday and his crop was gone, and we can't be here 24 hours a day. What the dogs do is that they chase the geese away and they harass them so much that they don't come back. They don't harm them, they just annoy them so they go elsewhere."
Dog patrols cost $44K per year
The two border collies, Jamie and Bella, were hired in late April to remove more than 1,000 geese from the property.
It costs the government $44,000 per year to hire Border Control Bird Dogs, but it's already paying off.
The damage caused last year alone was about $250,000, Savard said, factoring in the time it takes to develop the seeds and start again.
The dogs show up with their handlers for three hours every morning at dawn and another three hours every night at dusk, seven days a week, to chase the birds away.
They behave like predators, sneaking up on gaggles of geese, to scare them.
"We've seen a significant improvement within those three weeks," said Heather Williams of Border Control Bird Dogs.
But the geese season isn't over yet.
"As of today there are no geese at all at the farm, but we will expect them to return," Williams said.
"The geese work on a cycle, they will be back. They'll try and come back before they lose their flight feathers, and they'll definitely be returning in August," she said.