21 April 2017

'The perfect storm': Goose eggs removed from traffic circle as collision numbers soar

Four birds have been hit in the three-lane Dieppe traffic circle just within the last month

CTV News, By Sarah Betts

Almost 80 Giant Canada Geese eggs were removed from the Dieppe traffic circle on Thursday in an effort to halt bird-vehicle collisions.

Pam Novak of the Atlantic Wildlife Institute said after calls regarding the geese getting hit in the area increased, the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure stepped in.

"We're all in agreement that while we're dealing with wildlife there, the main aspect is that it's a really big public safety issue and the geese are just telling us that this is becoming a very dangerous situation," she said.

Novak said the Institute picked up 15 geese from area within a two-month span last spring. There have been four reported to have been hit just in the last month.

In total, 79 eggs were collected from 18 nests surrounding the pond fed by Humphrey's Brook. The eggs will eventually make their way to the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John for research purposes.

The perfect storm

Novak said the area is not sustainable for the animals, However, because it's government-protected wetland, it's become a very attractive "oasis" for them to breed in.

"You have that nice calm water pond. It's attractive for them to want to have their young because it's a good spot for the young to go into where they don't have to deal with the currents and the deep sloping sides of the muddy [Petitcodiac River]," she said.

"They really hone in on these particular spots and you just create this kind of nightmare situation, so it was like the perfect storm kind of scenario happening there at the traffic circle."

Novak said it was a priority of both the institute and DTI to approach the situation in the most humane way possible, while keeping the safety of the public in mind.

"It becomes more of a public safety issue because of the fact that we're dealing with a roadway that we can't change," she said.

"You have to be realistic to look at it from a common sense perspective and really look and say, 'What's going on here? What can we do to at least safeguard the adult geese that are still here and stop it from just overpopulating?'"

Colliding with the feathered pedestrians has not been the only risk at hand. Novak said the natural human instinct to suddenly brake when seeing an animal acts as a domino effect to pileup with fellow drivers.

In the long term, the environment is also not good for the 11-pound birds themselves. When they hatch in a particular area, they imprint on that location and tend to return. Rising populations in a condensed area make for poor food sources.

"The ecological integrity of an area is dependent upon all the different species that are there ... It's becoming an off balance to what should be there. It disrupts the natural working and natural surroundings for that whole region."

Being proactive

Birder and Moncton resident Alain Clavette told CBC's Shift Canada Geese in the area are overpopulated and are definite road hazards, but simply moving the eggs will not deter the birds from nesting in the area.

"The problem is that these geese have evolved to know exactly where to go where they are not hunted. The main source of food for a Canada Goose and their goslings is grass. So, if you have grass, you have water, they know that they will be protected."

Clavette said he is certain the eggs will be relayed and moving them will only encourage the birds to lay more.

He said removing the grass and, unfortunately, destroying the eggs is DTI's best bet at breaking the cycle.

"With human compassion, we don't like to destroy the eggs, but with destroying the eggs … the geese will come back and say, 'Okay, there's a predator here that comes and destroys my eggs. I'm not going to nest here.'"

It could take a few years to break the cycle, but Novak said she hopes removing the eggs, driving more carefully and possibly allowing for more plant growth will deter the geese from returning.

"The habitat itself will make its own statement that this is not an appropriate habitat for breeding and nesting."

She said the egg removal isn't about hurting the geese, but protecting both the humans and animals in the area.

"Our main goal here is to reduce that animal conflict and that animal impact and reduce the amount of animals that have to be admitted to a facility like ours," Novak said.

"If we've identified that cause of displacement or that trauma, then let's do something, let's be proactive and try to stop this from continuing in the future."