New Brunswick

Fowl: Goose hunt underway at Rothesay golf course

Riverside Country Club has taken steps to solve what it calls a health and safety issue issue by inviting hunters to thin a troublesome population.

President of Riverside Country Club says exposure to their droppings sent 1 worker to hospital

Hunters with special permits have been allowed to shoot Canada geese living at the Riverside Country Club golf course. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Riverside Country Club has taken steps to solve what it calls a health and safety issue, by inviting hunters to thin a troublesome population. 

The golf course says it's overwhelmed with Canada geese. 

The president of the golf course points to a situation five years ago, when Edward Reevey says they were visited by a gaggle of 1,000. He says the birds left behind so many droppings, it became an unsafe environment for a maintenance worker.

"We had an employee get severely sick from the geese feces," said Reevey.

The employee was coming into contact with their waste while sharpening the blades of maintenance equipment.

"He actually had to go to the hospital for that."

Reevey said the golf course looked into solving the issue with a hunt at that time. But because it wasn't hunting season, the geese moved on by the time the club was able to acquire the nuisance license needed for a hunt.

"This year they've come back," said Reevey. "There must have been well over a thousand there one weekend."

Riverside Country Club president Edward Reevey said they don't want to shoot the geese, but they have become a health and safety risk. (Source: Golf NB)

Reevey said the geese usually hang around the ponds on the 12 and 15 holes of the course. This year, the population was so big, the club's board of directors authorized the hunting of geese following the last day of golf.

For three days over the past two weeks, up to six hunters at a time have been hunting.

"We don't like to kill geese, but it's a health and safety issue and we'd be negligent if we didn't follow-up and try to rectify the situation."

A robust population

For many, it might seem hard to believe that the Canada goose was once in trouble in New Brunswick..

Between 1992 and 1997, a total of 4,230 of them were released in several locations across the province. The move was in response to alarmingly low levels of the bird and to increase hunting opportunities.

According to the Canadian Wildlife Services, the population was approximately 10,600 in 2016.

Garry Donaldson, acting director of the organization, says the birds are doing well here, but it's far from the population explosion seen in other parts of the country.

A special permit and approval is required before Canada geese are allowed to be hunted. But the Canadian Wildlife Services said there are other methods of controlling their population. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

Donaldson said temperate-breeding Canada goose, which are the most common to this region, thrive on man-made conditions.

"We often hear that human alterations to land are having a detrimental effect on biodiversity," he said. "But in the case of Canada geese, it's actually the opposite effect."

Agricultural fields and locations such as golf courses, which offer access to water and grass, are as good as goose gold, he said. Fresh cut grass, said Donaldson, is like chocolate to a goose, which unfortunately leads to the mess.

"Grass isn't the most easy to digest of food source" said Donaldson.

The dropping rate for each bird can be up to every 20 minutes and a pound-and-a-half of droppings per day.

Still, Donaldson said the CWS, which operates as part of Environment and Climate Change Canada, tries to limit hunting of the birds.

"Actually permitting a kill, that's something we rarely do and it's considered a last resort and something to be done in exceptional circumstances" he said.

Encouraging geese not to nest in an area could be as easy as blocking their path between the water and the grass, he said.

Neighbours hearing gunshots

Neighbours of the golf course said they were wondering what they were hearing.

Beth Beckingham said she was woken up by the sound of shots last weekend.

"There's been a lot of gunshots," she said, at first thinking they were targeting deer. "I realized this is probably something to do with the Canadian geese."

Beth Beckingham and her husband woke up to the sound of gunshots coming from the golf course. (Matthew Bingley/CBC)

"A lot of people, including us, walk this golf course on a regular basis" she said. Beckingham said it was 'a scary thought' finding out people could have been hunting in those areas.

"We've notified some of the neighbours of when we're doing it," Reevey said, but Beckingham contests that. "We knew nothing of it."