A flying drone designed to scare geese away from Ottawa beaches could just be sending them elsewhere in the city, according to one federal biologist.
The small helicopter the city has used this summer at Petrie Island, where poor water quality has forced beach closures in the past, is not an ideal long-term solution, according to Jack Hughes of the Canadian Wildlife Service.
"The drone, or any other technique to scare geese away, has the potential just to move them somewhere else," said Hughes. "Potentially, they could end up at another beach nearby."
Earlier this summer, the city hired a local tech expert, Steve Wambolt, who'd built the goose-spooking helicopter for about $6,000.
The city was hoping the drone would keep geese away from the beach and maintain the water quality for swimmers. Geese droppings can carry E. coli bacteria, which can then end up in the water supply and pose health risks.
Plant shrubs to keep geese off beaches
But Hughes says other cities like Mississauga have taken more feasible steps to reduce goose numbers, including planting tall plants and shrubs along shorelines and getting permits to destroy the birds' eggs.
The National Capital Commission's Mario Fournier said that by planting shrubs and installing fences at Champlain Bridge Park, they've been able to stop geese from nesting there.
"Once they're nesting in one area, they keep coming back to the same area," said Fournier, adding that populations have been cut in half since the measures were introduced in 2010.
City officials have said daily sweeps at Petrie Island are having an impact on geese populations. The city is looking at expanding the pilot drone program to other beaches next year if early results prove promising.