EDITORIAL: A caveat on starling program

If the City of Abbotsford follows through with a starling trapping program next year ...

If the City of Abbotsford follows through with a starling trapping program next year, potentially thousands of the birds will meet a premature end.

The starling is not indigenous to North America. Like numerous other species, it was introduced either accidentally or with ignorant intention by European settlers.

The result has been massive flocks of the birds thriving in this environment, driving out native bird species, and wreaking havoc on berry crops, particularly blueberries.

A defensive farming measure that somehow made sense many years ago – loud blasts from a propane-powered cannon – has, in the contemporary interface between agriculture and residential areas, become as invasive as the birds themselves.

Hundreds of explosions from multiple cannons across adjoining fields and farms are an auditory blight on the environment.

Very unfortunately, successive provincial governments have refused to update antiquated right-to-farm legislation, and ban the devices.

Enter other less obtrusive alternatives, such as reflective tape, falcons, drones – and starling eradication programs.

There undoubtedly will be some who decry such an attack on Mother Nature, pointing out that the birds are not at fault.

There is some validity to that argument, but staging a wildly disruptive war of sound in the fields is far more unacceptable, in our view.

Trapping and euthanizing several thousand starlings will hardly affect their overall population, but it might relieve some pressure on crops, and in turn, reduce cannon use – or so the city hopes.

And that is where we place considerable doubt.

Given that many farmers see no issue with disturbing their neighbours, what will motivate them to discontinue cannon use if starling populations decrease somewhat during growing season?

Some may see it as the best of both worlds.

Unless the city places a caveat on the $30,000 in funding it will supply to the program in the first year – i.e. a commitment from growers to a specific reduction in cannon numbers and use – the intent of this project may fall on deaf ears.