ROUNDUP: Geese are corralled along the waterfront.

ROUNDUP: Geese are corralled along the waterfront.

If it seems like Oakville’s parks have significantly fewer Canada Geese in them, there’s a reason for it — it does.

The Town of Oakville’s Parks and Open Space Department implemented its annual goose relocation program, last Wednesday — sending 865 of the waterfowl to a conservation area in Aylmer, Ont.

The Town’s Director of Parks and Open Space Chris Mark said the action is successful in removing the bulk of the birds along Oakville’s waterfront for the summer months when residents want to use the town’s parks the most.

“The bird poop and the overall volume of geese that we have in our parks conflicts with the residents who want to use our parks,” said Mark.

“Prior to the roundup, we are sweeping the parks (for goose droppings) two or three times a week, we’re hosing down pathways two or three times a week, we’re hosing down our docks in our harbours every other day just because of the amount of goose poop. So this gives us a bit of a break from the geese, from a maintenance aspect, as well as for residents who want to enjoy our parks for picnics and strolling in the summer months.”

Getting the large birds to comply with the deportation order is no easy task.

As the Canada Goose is a nationally protected species, the Town must first get a permit from the Canadian Wildlife Service approving the relocation.

Mark said the permit the Town applies for covers the relocation of up to 1,000 geese.

The relocation is carried out in partnership with Mississauga with Oakville staff helping in the neighbouring city’s goose relocation efforts and Mississauga city staff reciprocating with the Oakville effort.

Including Mississauga staff, Mark said, the operation in Oakville on June 20 involved approximately 40 people.

This time of year, he noted, most of the waterfowl are not able to fly due to the molting of their flight feathers and so they congregate around the waterfront where they have an avenue of escape, if approached by a predator.

As such, the relocation plan begins in the water.

“We use boats in the early morning hours, usually starting around 6 a.m. The geese are often in the water at that time of day. We kind of corral them, get them to come along the shoreline and up at various points along the waterfront where we can load them into a truck,” said Mark.

“They normally come ashore at various locations. The larger locations for us are Coronation Park, Bronte Beach Park and Lakeside Park where we’ve got good access. The birds just walk up on the shore, there are a number of staff there that shoo them into a group. Eventually there are some snow fences set up by a truck and they are all just held within the snow-fenced area and then one by one they walk up the ramp that goes into the back of the truck.”

Mark said the Town has been performing this annual exercise for a dozen years with Town staff becoming exceedingly efficient at it.

He also said no goose has ever been hurt, as extreme care is taken to make sure the birds are safe.

Once the geese are loaded onto the trucks, they are taken to the Aylmer Wildlife Sanctuary where they stay for six to eight weeks until they have regrown their flight feathers.

At that point the geese disperse.

“Some of them actually fly right back here. We know that from our leg banding efforts over the years,” said Mark.

“They go south, they go to Ohio, they go to Virginia, they go to parts of New York State. They just disperse from Aylmer and a lot of them will return to where they originally first mated.”

Not all geese are removed from Oakville during the operation. Mark said those with young goslings are not disturbed to avoid the possibility of a family being broken up.

Removing the geese from Oakville’s waterfront is not cheap — it costs between $4,000-$5,000 annually.

Mark said some of the costs are offset by Town staff having to do less work removing goose droppings.

- David Lea can be reached at dlea@oakvillebeaver.com and followed on Twitter at @DavidLea6 .