British Columbia

Snow geese wreak havoc on Metro Vancouver farms

The annual snow geese migration is causing thousands of dollars worth of losses for local Metro Vancouver farmers.

'It's insane,' says farmer who loses more than $80,000 each year due to annual migration

The Lower Mainland is the only place in Canada where snow geese spend the winter, according to Environment Canada. (Denis Dossman (CBC))

Metro Vancouver farmers say they are losing thousands of dollars each year because of the annual snow geese migration in October and November.

Young snow geese cause problems for farmers by feeding on grass and eating crops, resulting in damaged fields.

"It's insane," said third generation farmer John Van Keulen.

"That crop that we lose out on would maybe be an $80,000 crop for us....They love lush green grass. They just slowly peck away at it."

  Van Keulen's family runs Donia Farms in South Surrey and the birds have become a major problem over the last decade.

"Because of the rainy wet weather and mild temperatures that we do have, the birds seem to love it," said Van Keulen.

Last year, experts estimated the Metro Vancouver snow goose population may have increased by up to 50 per cent over a one-year period, up to 100,000 birds.

"They can sometimes graze it so badly there's nothing left of the crop," said Drew Bondar of the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust.

Drones to deter birds?

Bondar said in some cases, farmers have to reseed an entire field because the damage is so severe.

"There's quite a large cost associated with that. Over the winter season they can graze a field so badly it has to be reseeded in the spring."

Van Keulen has tried different methods to save his fields, including planting different types of grass.

  "We've certainly tailored our farming now to annual crops where we don't have perennial grass growing."

Next month, Van Keulen is hiring a private company to test its technology that uses robotic birds and drones to deter the birds.

"It's a quiet problem that a lot of us farmers have been trying to battle."