Just under $650,000 of the Regional District of Nanaimo’s budget could be going to the birds over the next three years.
The board has approved, at the committee level, a recommendation to award the three-year contract for providing bird control services at the regional landfill to PK Bird Control services at a cost of $216,500 per year, starting March 1.
The regional district has been using bird control at the landfill since 1991, where a large number of nuisance birds – mostly seagulls – are attracted due to the presence of food waste in the landfill. The birds pose a health risk to landfill staff and cause damage to equipment and facilities, as well as pose a safety hazard for airport traffic.
Bird control enlists the use of trained predators, such as hawks, peregrines and falcons, to deter the seagulls from frequenting the site. According to district staff, predator bird control has proved the most effective means of getting rid of nuisance birds, over all other methods such as noisemakers and netting.
“We’ve gotten very good results from it in past,” said Dennis Trudeau, RDN general manager of transportation and solid waste.
The nuisance bird population varies by time of year and the availability of natural food sources outside the landfill. Bringing the food waste diversion program in 2010 had a significant impact on the population, dropping it by 50 per cent in 2011, but there is still a need for services.
According to a staff report, with the construction of a nature park on site in 2013, and the Sandstone development adjacent to the landfill, bird control continues to be a priority service.
“Our food waste program has done quite well at diversion but there’s still over 50 per cent of the food that our residents produce that end still end up in landfills, so there are still birds that have to be dealt with,” Trudeau said.
PK Bird Control services provided services for the district since November 2010, but the contract expired Oct. 31, 2012. The cost of the new contract comes in at about $2,300 less per year than the 2012 rate.
The issue ruffled a few feathers during Tuesday’s committee of the whole meeting, where the contract was briefly discussed.
“We can’t just shoot them, the birds?” said director Ted Greves. “It would be a lot less expensive than 600k to shoot a couple hundred birds.”
Alec McPherson, area A (Cedar, Cassidy) director, noted that the problem doesn’t lie with birds directly on the landfill site but in the surrounding area as well.
“On three houses across the way, you can’t see the roof, there’s gotta be 3,000 birds there, and that’s on the property across from the dump, they’re not in the air,” he said. “You simply put the predators in and you don’t see birds on those roofs at all.”
Board chairman Joe Stanhope asked Trudeau if it would be possible to arrange for directors who haven’t seen the program in action to have the opportunity to learn more.
“I think it would behoove us directors if there was a tour put on to show the activity of these birds,” he said.
The final vote on the contract is expected to take place during the board’s regular meeting on Feb. 26.