A cull may be the only viable way to stop snow geese from ravaging farmers’ fields and polluting playgrounds in Richmond, according to one city councillor.

Experts say the snow goose population, which migrates annually from northern Siberia to the Fraser River delta, ballooned over the last few decades until peaking five years ago at 100,000 birds.

Coun. Harold Steves said the amount of droppings at district playgrounds can cause a potential health hazard, not to mention a costly cleanup, and there are few options available to tackle the problem.  

“We’ve probably got two or three times as many snow geese as we should, because we don’t have enough natural habitat to feed them,” Steves said.

“We’ve destroyed our marshes, we’ve paved over farmland and we’re busy destroying more habitat and paving over more farmland.”

Steves, who also chairs Richmond’s parks committee, said he’d like the city to pay farmers to divert the birds with cover crops over the winter, but calculated that it would cost taxpayers roughly $1 million per year.

The city already has a plan to train locals and their dogs to spook the birds away from parks daily.

“That way, if there’s somebody in every park and playground, presumably the birds will find nowhere to land and they’ll fly south,” Steves said.

The latest count pegged Richmond’s snow goose population at 70,000 birds, and David Bradbeer, program coordinator with the Delta Farmland and Wildlife Trust, said a cull would be very difficult to execute.

“These birds aren’t the easiest thing to kill en masse, which is probably a good thing,” Bradbeer said.

But he agreed that a solution is required to protect farmers’ bottom lines.

Some have already tried growing lower-value crops that offer less nutrition, or diverting the geese away from their hay with cover crops, but the strategies have varied success.

“It’s not totally protected because these birds are hungry and there’s thousands of them,” he said.

With a report from CTV British Columbia’s Maria Weisgarber