June 13, 2018 6:02 pm

Vaudreuil uses Harris’s hawks, other methods uses to fix its goose problem

WATCH: Hundreds of geese are wreaking havoc along Vaudreuil's waterfront parks. As Global's Dan Spector reports, the city is relying on a new strategy involving birds of prey to fix the issue.

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Vaudreuil has a goose problem.

Hundreds of geese have been spending time at the city’s waterfront parks, leaving a huge mess in their wake. Now, the city is trying an unconventional new strategy to fix it.

“It became like a major problem,” said Vaudreuil mayor Guy Pilon.

The issue is not so much the geese themselves but what they leave behind. With a lot of geese comes a lot of droppings. There was a time Vaudreuil had to clean off a waterside soccer field before every game because it was just full of goose droppings.

“Imagine your little boy or girl is there at 5, 6, 7 years old and the fell in that?” Pilon recalled.

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So what does one do when confronted with such a problem? A few decades ago, the solution may have involved shotguns, but not in a neighbourhood full of kids in 2018. Now, a Harris’s hawk named Phoenix is the weapon of choice.

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Vaudreuil has hired a company called Falcon Environmental Services to get the geese out of its parks. The company brings hawks to scare the pests away.

“Other birds or animals see them flying and they get the hell out,” explained Pierre Molina, executive director of Falcon Environmental Services.

Even though the hawk is a lethal bird of prey, his job is not to kill the geese.

“Our intention is to scare them, push them to safer ground,” said Falcon Environmental’s Genevieve Zaloum, who trained Phoenix.

On Wednesday, she couldn’t even use the hawk to chase the geese because young goslings were around.

“We can’t use the birds of prey because they might catch the young who can’t fly. It’s not ethical to do that,” said Molina. Government regulations don’t permit the company to kill any animals in parks.

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The hawk is not the company’s only tool — they also have a poodle who helps scare the birds off land.

To scare the geese even farther from the shore, they use a remote-controlled boat.

“It looks like ‘let’s go toward the bird and hit them!’ but we don’t do that. We need to mimic how a predator would go toward that bird. The bird needs to learn to get scared of that boat,” said Molina.

In what looks more and more like a young boy’s dream job, the goose hunters even have a remote-controlled car.

“It’s for tougher spots, ” Molina explained. “Marsh spots.”

Falcon Environmental mainly works at airports. In those places they do sometimes kill the birds, because a bird in a plane engine can be very dangerous. In Vaudreuil, however, it’s strictly non-lethal. Most people don’t even seem to notice.

“As long as we have a good result, we’ll be very happy,” said Guy Pilon.

The hope is that next time the geese come back from the south, they’ll remember Vaudreuil is a no-fly zone.

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