A Canada goose shares the beach at Cultus Lake. The birds – or what they leave behind – are causing increasing health concerns.

A Canada goose shares the beach at Cultus Lake. The birds – or what they leave behind – are causing increasing health concerns.

Goose poop a vexing problem

Cultus Lake Park Board is now considering a range of solutions, said board chair Sacha Peter.

Beaches covered in geese feces has become a dirty little problem local municipalities are scrambling to clean up.

Cultus Lake Park Board is now considering a range of solutions, said board chair Sacha Peter.

“The board is being forced to look at this now because the Canada goose population has increased dramatically at Cultus for whatever reason,” he said.

It could have environmental consequences for the Cultus Lake area, a recreational jewel that attracts more than two million people a year from across the Lower Mainland.

Park board staff have started researching everything from equipment with raking action or a vacuum, to a structure that imitates reeds to discourage roosting.

The vexing topic has recently attracted several letters to the editor from Progress readers put off by the soiled public beaches.

“Our big concern is that it may gravitate from an annoyance to a health issue,” said Peter. “Dealing with poop always means bacteria, which can get into the water.”

Some beaches in the Okanagan have even been forced to close because of it.

“With so much flat ground they love to hang around the beaches at Cultus and it means dealing with a large amount of fecal matter,” said the chair.

One of the troublesome aspects is visitors or residents who actually feed the wild geese, making them human-habituated.

“That’s part of why they stick around,” said Peter.

But any solution has to be weighed with a cost-benefit analysis, he underlined.

When Harrison Hot Springs Mayor Ken Becotte took the call from the Progress reporter, he had just talking been talking with a fellow council member about the goose feces situation at Harrison Lake beach.

“It’s at the top of our list,” said Becotte. “But it’s such a big problem to overcome.”

How big?

“It’s severe. There seems to be a larger goose population now, and they don’t seem to be bothered by either people or dogs. They take it all in stride.”

The Village of Harrison Hot Springs staff is also conducting some research on what works and what doesn’t with regard to geese, he said, because they’re cognizant of the fact that many municipalities are struggling to lay waste to the waste problem.

“I’ve heard in some areas they’ve introduced swans. From what I’m told the geese won’t stay when the swans are around.”

The problems with feces removal machines is they are only effective to a certain extent, and it’s labour-intensive.

“You’d have to have someone out there doing it constantly,” said Becotte.

There’s a grass fertilizer that reportedly makes the grass taste bad to the geese, which might be worth a try, he said.

“We’re definitely trying to come up with a solution. Maybe the answer is a combination of things.”

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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