New plan to trap berry-eating birds after last program failed

City of Abbotsford contributes $30,000 towards program

With a previous effort to trap blueberry-eating starlings having flopped in the summer of 2016, the City of Abbotsford will now help fund a program targeting the pesky birds in the winter.

The initial pilot starling trapping program was conceived in partnership with the BC Blueberry Council in the wake of sustained concerns about the use of noisy cannons by farmers to deter birds from alighting on their fields.

The program was green-lighted after attempts by the city to restrict the use of the cannons were limited by “right to farm” Ministry of Agriculture rules. The city subsequently, in 2015, pledged $30,000 towards efforts to test the effectiveness of trapping the birds. That city money wasn’t used by the BC Blueberry Council after a grant was received from the Investment Agriculture Foundation.

Last Monday, council granted a request by the BC Blueberry Council to have an extension on the city funding for a new program, after it found summer trapping had “virtually no effect on starling populations.”

Coun. Dave Loewen said he was disappointed in the length of time the program was taking.

“I’m sure the people out there who want action on the blueberry cannons and some resolution to the noise matter would not be happy this is pushed up another year.”

Coun. Les Barkman said that while he was opposed to the original cannon bylaw and still didn’t like it, he supported the trapping efforts.

The report by EBB Environmental Consulting also contained insight into the effectiveness of bird deterrents used by farmers. It found that shiny Mylar tape was the most effective of all starling deterrents – even better than cannons.

However, the consultant noted that research has shown that all deterrents lose effectiveness over time as the birds realize that most threats don’t actually pose a danger. It says the best deterrent it a combination of techniques with no pattern.

The consultant recommended repeating the program in 2017, beginning in February, to target breeding adults and concentrate trapping at dairy sites, which showed the most effectiveness in the summer program.

As for the cannons, Mayor Henry Braun said that the Ministry of Agriculture had again signaled that they weren’t willing to consider any changes to the city’s current bylaw, which requires farmers to register cannons and restricts how much, and when, they can be use.

Braun said the ministry was satisfied that the bylaw had reduced noise complaints. And bylaw enforcement manager Magda Laljee said data has shown 24 to 30 per cent fewer calls. The largest number of those calls were for cannons operating outside of hours, she said.

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