The Carillon - ONLINE EDITION
By: Jordan Ross
Posted: 05/22/2018 10:45 AM
Though she lives on a waterfront property, lately Christine Seaberg has been keeping her blinds drawn.
The Paradise Village resident said she feels increasingly estranged from her neighbourhood of 11 years, alarmed not only by steps taken to deter a few Canada geese, but also by aggressive behaviour from some of her neighbours.
A situation was sparked earlier this spring, when three pairs of Canada geese, returning from migration, began frequenting a large, man-made pond surrounded by Lakeview Drive, a circular street with 19 homes located in the quiet community along the Trans-Canada Highway near Lilac Resort.
Droppings soon appeared on the paved walking path and grassy area around the shore. According to Seaberg, this upset many of the residents. Soon, they strung a low wire around the perimeter of the pond and placed a life-size plastic swan in the centre, tethered to opposing shores with rope.
Paradise Village residents own their home but rent the lot on which it sits. The water feature is a shared amenity, and the deterrents were permitted but not paid for by management, said Justin Deschauer, manager of Paradise Village. He explained they are intended to discourage the geese from paddling across the pond and grazing around its fringe.
Seaberg, however, believes the ropes and wire are "extreme" measures that will soon become downright inhumane by preventing water access when the geese enter their molting stage and are rendered temporarily flightless.
Two weeks ago, she took matters into her own hands and began pulling out the wire barrier. That’s when, she alleges, a male neighbour shoved and verbally harassed her, prompting her to lodge a complaint with RCMP.
She later called the incident "sickening" and "beyond understanding," and highlighted the irony of such aggression in a retirement community with street names like Harmony Lane and Nature Drive.
Seaberg, a University of Manitoba communications instructor and retired civil servant, told The Carillon she has also witnessed residents banging rocks together and brandishing baseball bats to scare away the geese, creatures she believes should be tolerated, or dealt with via yard fencing, until they migrate voluntarily.
To that end, Seaberg wrote a letter to management, her neighbours, elected officials, and Manitoba Sustainable Development.
By raising awareness of the issue, she said she hopes to not only defuse rising tensions and protect the geese, but to spur management to reconsider its assumptions regarding native wildlife, protection of private property, and shared amenities.
Though Deschauer said the majority of Lakeview Drive residents seem to support the wire and ropes, Seaberg suspects some are reluctant to voice their opposition.
"Other residents here, I think, are much more accepting of wildlife in our environment," she said.
Deschauer called the animosity and altercations between neighbours his "biggest concern," and said Lakeview Drive residents "must respect" the geese while management gathers more information from Manitoba Sustainable Development.
"We don’t want things to escalate."
Management currently accepts measures that don’t actively harm the creatures, and Deschauer said he hopes to implement a new community-wide wildlife policy this summer.
"We are currently figuring out a stance," he said.
Deschauer also acknowledged the complexity of crafting a policy that harmonizes provincial regulations and resident expectations, but said the sticking point is simple.
"It comes down to the feces."
Management of goose populations falls under federal jurisdiction, and Canada geese are a protected species under current migratory bird regulations, but provincial agencies also recommend best practices for private citizens.
According to a Sustainable Development factsheet, geese droppings can pose a threat to human health, but the species as a whole is only problematic when large numbers descend on urban areas.
Until a policy is in place, Deschauer urged sympathetic homeowners to refrain from feeding the geese, something Sustainable Development literature supports.
Because geese eat young, tender shoots, the province recommends lawn care techniques like letting grass grow longer and fertilizing and watering less frequently. Planting fescue or creeping juniper instead of traditional grass varieties also discourages geese.
The province also cautions geese become accustomed to scare tactics like strobe lights, flash tape, and scarecrows, and recommends against the use of noisemaking devices.
Next year, Seaberg said she’d like to see management employ these less invasive deterrents as part of a long-term, ecologically-informed plan for a community with multiple ponds.
For the time being, she said she was encouraged by a response from a representative of the Canadian Wildlife Service that agreed some of the activities described in the letter constituted "harassment."