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How Canada geese bounced back from near extinction to conquer North America

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They came, they honked, they conquered. Flying in their signature V-formation, Canada geese are often hailed as a symbol of the Canadian wilderness, marking the change of seasons with their southern migration each winter and return every spring.

They came, they honked, they conquered.

Flying in their signature V-formation, Canada geese are often hailed as a symbol of the Canadian wilderness, marking the change of seasons with their southern migration each winter and return every spring.

In recent decades, however, “honkers” have been derided as urban pests as the big, black-necked birds overran new habitats across North America, where in some cases, they’ve taken up residence year-round.

This has given rise to a contentious coexistence: Gaggles of geese swarm public grounds, scattering their droppings across parks and beaches. There are clashes between protective mother geese and unwitting human intruders who stray too close to their nests. Between crop losses and car crashes, one province pegs the cost of goose-related damage at hundreds of thousands of dollars per year. 

As Canada Day approaches, experts say we have no one but ourselves to blame for the proliferation of Canada’s avian agitators, so ultimately, it’s up to us to find a way to live in peace.

“Canada geese are very polarizing,” said Christopher Sharp, a population management biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service in the Ontario region.

“Because there’s a lot of people who hate them … but there’s also a lot of people who still have a soft spot for Canada geese.”

Prior to European colonization, the historical nesting grounds of Canada geese was limited to southwest Ontario and the southern Prairies.

By the turn of the 20th century, Sharp said unregulated hunting drove Canada geese to the brink of extinction from these native habitats.

This prompted a concerted effort by wildlife officials and amateur aviculturalists, who bred the birds on their homesteads, to boost the numbers of Canada geese, sometimes introducing them to new areas.

This mission, enshrined in the Migratory Birds Convention between Canada and the U.S. in 1916, coincided with human changes to the natural landscape that would prove to be a boon to the savvy birds, said Sharp.

As forests were razed in favour of commercial crops and manicured lawns and waterfronts, Sharp said Canada geese flocked to these open pastures and “urban refuges” with an abundant supply of food and relatively few predators.

Today, there are an estimated seven million Canada geese living in North America, according to the Canadian Wildlife Service.

In regions with mild climates in much of the U.S. and some parts of Canada, so-called “resident geese” have gotten so comfortable that they’ve stopped migrating to breed and instead stay in the same place throughout the year.

What’s good for the goose, however, isn’t always good for their human neighbours, said Sharp. As the population of Canada geese has boomed, so too has the prevalence of “human-goose conflict.”

“Geese are just doing what geese do,” said Sharp.

“It’s only when you throw humans in the mix that there’s conflict.”

Frank Baldwin, a wildlife biologist with the Canadian Wildlife Service in Manitoba, said the consequences of these conflicts can range from disturbance to damage to danger.

According to the Manitoba Agricultural Services Corporation, crop damage by Canada geese resulted in an average annual compensation claims of more than $416,000 from 2015 to 2018.

That doesn’t account for other types of property damage, Baldwin noted, or public nuisances caused by high concentrations of geese, such as noise concerns, droppings and water quality.

Geese can also become aggressive when they believe their nests are under threat, which can cause serious injury, Baldwin said.

They can also be a traffic hazard, he said. From 2015 to 2018, an annual average of approximately $372,528 in car crash claims in Manitoba could be attributed to Canada geese, according to Manitoba Public Insurance.

Canada geese also pose risks to aircraft, said Baldwin. For example, the birds have been blamed for bringing down the jetliner that Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger safely landed on New York’s Hudson River in 2009.

At current growth rates, the number of Canada geese in Manitoba could double in eight years, despite population control efforts such as loosening hunting regulations and egg sterilization programs.

The Canadian Wildlife Service has put forward a proposal to designate temperate-breeding Canada geese in southern Manitoba as “overabundant,” meaning their population size is considered detrimental to the conservation of other migratory birds, as well as agricultural, environmental or other interests.

The move would also establish a spring hunting season for Canada geese with a daily bag limit of eight.

Sharp, the wildlife biologist in Ontario, said the province isn’t considering such drastic measures yet.

The growth rate of the Canada goose population in southern Ontario has levelled off since the mid-2000s, he said.

He noted wildlife officials in the province are working on strategies to reduce clashes between humans and geese in urban areas where hunting is not allowed.

Between education and habitat modification, Sharp believes there’s potential for waterfowl and city-dwellers to live more harmoniously.

At the risk of anthropomorphism, he admits that Canadians may have more in common with Canada geese than they think.

They provide a connection to nature amid a concrete jungle, and are harbingers of warm weather to come, he said.

Canada geese are social, family-oriented and mate for life (at least to some degree), Sharp said.

“They’re good parents, and these things that humans try to be,” said Sharp.

“I’m a biologist for crying out loud. And still, just looking at them interact, it’s hard not to say, ‘They’re thinking what I’m thinking.'”

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 30, 2020.

Adina Bresge, The Canadian Press

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COVID-19 on P.E.I.: What’s happening Saturday, July 11

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The Charlottetown Farmers’ Market is open for its second weekend as an open-air market.

About 30 vendors are set up around the perimeter of the parking lot on Belvedere Ave. Customers are asked to park across the street at UPEI.

The market is also operating on reduced hours, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Despite physical distancing rules, there are still plenty of fun things to do this weekend, including the Cavendish Beach Drive-In Concert Series that begins Saturday. 

Fabric stores on P.E.I. are seeing an increase in business as more people are making their own face masks to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

Health PEI told employees in an email earlier this week that all staff who come in contact with patients and who aren’t able to physically distance must now wear medical masks. Officials say the province has enough masks to last eight or nine weeks, if staff use an estimated 100,000 masks per week.

Education Minister Brad Trivers gave more details to CBC News on how schools will operate in the fall — students will not be required to physically distance in classrooms or on buses, he said, but may have to wear face masks in hallways.

The Education Department is considering adding mobile classrooms at some schools including Montague Consolidated and Eliot River Elementary, since the schools need extra room for spacing due to COVID-19 restrictions. (John Robertson/CBC)

Nurses on P.E.I. said they are are starting to feel the pressure of there not being enough of them to go around, says the president of the P.E.I. Nurses’ Union.

The P.E.I. Humane Society says dog bites are on the rise this year, and believe it’s likely linked to more people staying at home because of the pandemic. 

P.E.I. has had a total of 33 COVID-19 cases, with 27 considered recovered.

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Today’s coronavirus news: Texas sees deadliest week of the pandemic; Australia approves experimental drug to treat severe cases of COVID-19; Dozens of US Marines in Japan’s Okinawa get coronavirus

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The latest coronavirus news from Canada and around the world Saturday. This file will be updated throughout the day. Web links to longer stories if available.

8:41 a.m.: Dozens of U.S. Marines have been infected with the coronavirus at two bases on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa in what is feared to be a massive outbreak, Okinawan officials said Saturday, demanding an adequate explanation from the U.S. military.

Okinawa prefectural officials said they could say only that a “few dozen” cases had been found recently because the U.S. military asked that the exact figure not be released. The outbreaks occurred at Marine Corps. Air Station Futenma, which is at the centre of a relocation dispute, and Camp Hansen, Okinawan officials said.

Local media, citing unnamed sources, said about 60 people had been infected.

“Okinawans are shocked by what we were told (by the U.S. military),” Okinawa Gov. Denny Tamaki told a news conference. He questioned disease prevention measures taken by the U.S. military and renewed his demand for transparency regarding the latest development.

8:01 a.m.: “Working in an industry where you aren’t properly represented or embraced, there is always a constant fight. For me personally, I think the challenge I have felt is one that is mental,” Toronto-based fashion designer Spencer Badu says.

These are some of the lessons on how to be vulnerable, voice his emotions and find a larger purpose in his identity the 27-year-old has learned amid the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing global protests against anti-Black racism. “Internalizing and suppressing the trauma is part of the Black experience,” he adds.

He has to deal with both the feeling of sorrow and pain from seeing his Black brothers and sisters being killed on the streets and the feeling of pressure to be creative and constantly moving toward the future and trying to inspire change.

Another huge test in the recent months — the COVID-19 pandemic — which slowed down and shuttered businesses across the country. “I’ve been on a constant grind and the pace of fashion is ruthless. We’re a small team so the work can get really exhausting.”

Read the full story from the Star’s Evelyn Kwong on how a young Black fashion designer is channelling his energy into his craft amid a pandemic.

7:31 a.m.: On June 30, North York General Hospital marked a milestone: After 100 days there were no COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit.

That morning, staff gathered to quietly celebrate and reflect on the harrowing weeks of treating the sickest coronavirus patients. The hospital, at Leslie Street and Sheppard Avenue East, was among the first in the GTA to see a wave of critically ill patients with the virus; at its peak, the community hospital had 12 COVID patients in its 21-bed ICU.

Now, during this lull, staff are taking some much-needed time off, though they are not letting down their guard. There are still six COVID patients in the hospital who could require intensive care, and they know new patients can be admitted any time.

Read the Star’s Megan Ogilvie’s latest on a hospital staff’s fear of a second wave of COVID-19.

7:19 a.m.: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says “things will get worse” in the state as more than 10,000 patients are now hospitalized with the coronavirus.

The deadliest week of the pandemic yet in Texas continued Friday with 95 new deaths.

On the Texas-Mexico border, Starr County Judge Eloy Vera says his rural community is trying to get a refrigerated trailer because the local funeral home can’t keep up with more than two bodies a day.

Texas members of Congress are asking the Trump administration for a field hospital in the Rio Grande Valley. They warn in a letter sent Friday to the health and human services secretary Azar that there is “no indication that case counts will level out soon.”

7:15 a.m.: Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration has given provisional approval to the drug remdesivir, an experimental medicine that has shown promise in the recovery time of the most seriously ill COVID-19 patients.

The approval comes as Australia is seeing a sharp increase in coronavirus infections in the state of Victoria, which reported a record 288 new confirmed cases Friday.

Authorities say remdesivir will be available only to patients who are severely ill, require oxygen or high-level support to breathe, and are in hospital care. It is the only drug licensed by both the U.S. and the European Union as a treatment for people with severe illness from the coronavirus.

With a population of 26 million, Australia has recorded more than 9,000 coronavirus cases, with 107 deaths.

7:11 a.m.: South Korea has reported 35 new cases of the coronavirus, bringing its caseload to 13,373 infections and 288 deaths.

South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Saturday that 13 of the new cases were in the densely populated Seoul metropolitan area, which has been at the centre of a virus resurgence since late May.

Infections were also reported in other major cities such Daejeon and Gwangju, where patients have been tied to various places, including churches, a Buddhist temple, churches, nursing homes and a sauna.

Fifteen of the new cases were linked to international arrivals as the virus continues to spread in Asia, North America and elsewhere.

7:08 a.m.: New coronavirus cases have dropped sharply in China, and authorities are turning their attention to concerns that the virus could spread through imported food.

Those worries have risen since a June outbreak in Beijing that was linked to the city’s largest wholesale market.

Testing has been stepped up on incoming food shipments, and on Friday customs officials said they are halting imports from three Ecuadorian shrimp producers after tests showed the virus present in recent shipments.

Authorities say the coronavirus was detected on the outer packaging of the shipments July 3. The inner packaging and the shrimp themselves tested negative. Products from the three companies received after March 12 have been ordered to be returned or destroyed.

7:03 a.m.: India’s coronavirus cases have passed 800,000 with the biggest spike of 27,114 cases in the past 24 hours, causing nearly a dozen states to impose a partial lockdown in high-risk areas.

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The new confirmed cases took the national total to 820,916. The Health Ministry on Saturday also reported another 519 deaths for a total of 22,123.

A surge in infections saw the cases jumping from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. The ministry said the recovery rate was continuing to improve at more than 62%.

Eight of India’s 28 states, including the worst-hit Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and New Delhi, account for nearly 90% of all infections.

6:06 a.m.: At least two doctors in Syria’s opposition-held northwest have been infected with the coronavirus, according to a monitoring group Saturday, raising the total number of cases in the overcrowded rebel enclave to three.

The Syrian opposition and militant groups control the Idlib area, which is home to more than 3 million people, most of them displaced by the war and living in tent camps and overcrowded facilities. Local health facilities have been targeted in Syrian government attacks that have recently displaced nearly a further million people.

The Early Warning and Alert Response Network, which reports on the virus, said the two doctors had been in touch with patient zero, another doctor who works in a hospital in Idlib. The first case was reported on Thursday and the hospital where the doctor works has since suspended its operations and quarantined patients and support staff to carry out testing.

12:47 a.m.: In his push to get schools and colleges to reopen this fall, President Donald Trump is again taking aim at their finances, this time threatening their tax-exempt status.

Trump said on Twitter on Friday he was ordering the Treasury Department to re-examine the tax-exempt status of schools that he says provide “radical indoctrination” instead of education.

“Too many Universities and School Systems are about Radical Left Indoctrination, not Education,” he tweeted. “Therefore, I am telling the Treasury Department to re-examine their Tax-Exempt Status and/or Funding, which will be taken away if this Propaganda or Act Against Public Policy continues. Our children must be Educated, not Indoctrinated!”

The Republican president did not explain what prompted the remark or which schools would be reviewed. But the threat is just one more that Trump has issued against schools as he ratchets up pressure to get them to open this fall. Twice this week Trump threatened to cut federal funding for schools that don’t reopen, including in an earlier tweet on Friday.

Friday 11:54 p.m.: Health officials are reporting eight cases of COVID-19 linked to public gatherings in Kelowna, British Columbia, during and around the Canada Day long weekend.

The Interior Health Authority says people who attended private gatherings, restaurants and bars from June 25 to July 6 in downtown and waterfront areas of the city may have been exposed to the illness.

Six of the eight cases are people who don’t live in the region and public health contact tracing is underway.

Officials are urging anyone who took part in such gatherings during this time period to closely monitor themselves for symptoms.

Friday 6 p.m.: Ontario’s regional health units are reporting 38,470 confirmed and probable cases of COVID-19, including 2,752 deaths, an increase of 118 cases since Thursday evening, according to the Star’s latest count.

The rate of new infections has fallen sharply in the province over the last two months and has remained low so far in July.

Over the last seven days, the province’s 34 health units have reported an average of 130 new infections per day, well down from a sustained peak of nearly 600 cases per day, seen in late April.

Friday’s low total included two days’ worth of data in Toronto, which nevertheless reported a low 42 new cases.

Starting this week, Toronto Public Health switched to reporting cases only on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. As such, the provincewide count of COVID-19 cases reported each day is likely to be higher than typical on those days.

Another 10 new fatal cases were reported Thursday, seven in Toronto and one each in York, Waterloo and Niagara Regions. During the worst of the province’s epidemic, the health units reported as many as 94 deaths in a single day.

Earlier Friday, the province reported 117 patients are hospitalized, including 34, who are in an intensive care unit, of whom 24 are on a ventilator. These numbers are themselves near the lowest the province has reported since first publishing hospitalization data in early April.

The province says its data is accurate to 4 p.m. the previous day. The province also cautions its latest count of total deaths, 2,710, may be incomplete or out of date due to delays in the reporting system, saying that, in the event of a discrepancy, “data reported by (the health units) should be considered the most up to date.”

The Star’s count includes some patients reported as “probable” COVID-19 cases. This means they have symptoms and contacts or travel history that indicate they very likely have the disease, but have not yet received a positive lab test.

Click here to read more of Friday’s coverage.



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COVID-19 on P.E.I.: What’s happening Friday, July 10

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Health PEI told employees in an email earlier this week that all staff who come in contact with patients and who aren’t able to physically distance must now wear medical masks. Officials say the province has enough masks to last eight or nine weeks, if staff use an estimated 100,000 masks per week.

Also on Friday, the government announced details on the reopening of a testing site for truckers and other essential workers in Borden-Carleton. It’ll open at noon on Monday, July 13 and will be open 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Education Minister Brad Trivers gave more details to CBC News on how schools will operate in the fall — students will not be required to physically distance in classrooms or on buses, he said, but may have to wear face masks in hallways.

Trivers was also part of an announcement Friday afternoon that federal, provincial and municipal governments will spend about $10 million for a new sports and community complex to replace the aging North Star Arena in North Rustico. The governments say this is the first of several announcements on the way to create jobs and boost the economy in the wake the COVID-19.

The unemployment rate for P.E.I. climbed to 15.2 per cent from 13.9 per cent in May, and more women were unemployed than men, according to Statistics Canada. 

The Education Department is considering adding mobile classrooms at some schools including Montague Consolidated and Eliot River Elementary, since the schools need extra room for spacing due to COVID-19 restrictions. (John Robertson/CBC)

Nurses on P.E.I. said they are are starting to feel the pressure of there not being enough of them to go around, says the president of the P.E.I. Nurses’ Union.

The P.E.I. Humane Society says dog bites are on the rise this year, and believe it’s likely linked to more people staying at home because of the pandemic. 

If you’re having trouble getting a face mask following the Chief Public Health Office’s strengthened recommendation for them, the Rotary Club gave some away free Friday.

Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Heather Morrison gave an unscheduled briefing Thursday at noon to announce P.E.I. has one more case of COVID-19, a young man who was a close contact of someone from an existing cluster, bringing the active number of cases on P.E.I. to six.

P.E.I. has had a total of 33 COVID-19 cases, with 27 considered recovered.

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