Whitehall wages war on Canada geese

CHRISTMAS may be coming, but the geese are getting far too fat for the liking of the Government. Convinced that a population explosion of Canada Geese is ruining parks and golf courses, it is devising new ways of curbing them.

Officials at the Department of the Environment want to pour paraffin over the birds' eggs as a 'socially acceptable', but at present illegal, type of birth control. And the Heritage Department has already shot 100 of them secretly at dawn on Bird Island in St James' Park, the very place where they were first introduced to Britain from North America, as an ornamental species, by Charles II 325 years ago.

The numbers of Canada Geese, the football hooligans of the bird world, is doubling every eight years. Forty years ago there were only 2,000 in Britain, now there are well over 60,000, and by the end of the decade there will be around 120,000.

They are aggressive, crowding out other waterfowl, and attack children trying to feed the ducks. They damage crops and strip the banks of ponds and lakes of grass.

Cursed with regrettable digestive systems, they produce prodigious amounts of slimy green excrement - each bird deposits an inch-and-a-half long dropping every three or four minutes.

They have no natural predators here (even foxes are reluctant to take them on). They can live for 12 years, and they are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act.

They also have famous friends. Two years ago London's Wandsworth Council was forced to abandon plans to kill 200 of them in Battersea Park after a campaign led by writer Carla Lane, who created the TV series Bread, and by Linda McCartney. The fight got so fierce that Rentokil, the company hired to carry out the cull, refused to do the deed, fearing 'irreparable' damage to its reputation.

The RSPCA decries 'character assassination of a species' while the RSPB says 'Canada Geese should be innocent until proven guilty'. Chastened by this fiasco, Whitehall has set up a working group, including conservationists, hunters, bureaucrats and Wandsworth Council, to come up with a 'humane solution'.

The group has just come up with the idea of coating the eggs with paraffin, but this is banned by the Ministry of Agriculture.

Park keepers in Milton Keynes take the eggs from nests, soon after they are laid, cook them in a tea urn and return them, thus fooling the parents into going to work on hard-boiled eggs. Bromley Council puts trip wires around its ponds to stop the geese waddling on to the grass.

Privately many members of the working groups say that killing geese is the only effective solution. Hunters can already shoot them in the spring and summer, but are forbidden to sell their carcasses, and have had little impact on the population. And so far, the Government has been wary of ordering an organised slaughter.

The Heritage Department last week admitted to the Independent on Sunday that they had secretly shot 100 geese in St James's Park in the early hours of one morning last July. Asked why it had not made it public, a spokesman said that was part of 'the normal day-to- day management of wildfowl', before confirming that it was 'unprecedented'.

One senior Environment Department official has his own solution: he ate a Canada Goose for dinner last New Year's Day. 'People say they are inedible,' he said. 'They may taste a bit gamey, but they make jolly good eating.'

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Sport
Luis Suarez and Lionel Messi during Barcelona training in August
footballPete Jenson co-ghost wrote Suarez’s autobiography and reveals how desperate he's been to return
News
newsMcKamey Manor says 'there is no escape until the tour is completed'
Voices
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer
voicesThe Scotland I know is becoming a playground for the rich
News
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
newsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
News
Laurence Easeman and Russell Brand
people
Sport
Fans of Dulwich Hamlet FC at their ground Champion Hill
footballFans are rejecting the £2,000 season tickets, officious stewarding, and airline-stadium sponsorship
News
Shami Chakrabarti
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has refused to deny his involvement in the upcoming new Star Wars film
filmBenedict Cumberbatch reignites Star Wars 7 rumours
Sport
football
News
news
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker