Posted by: jwhiff | April 30, 2011

Coyote Scarecrow Trial #1: Wild Goose Chase

Do you remember me writing about the student who was interested in saving the salt march at Port Moody Inlet?  Well, over the past month or so, she has been working away on this project, visiting the Inlet repeatedly.  She has observed issues with erosion and litter, although has been particularly interested in the alleged affect that Canadian geese are having on the marsh.

Back in January, I brought up the issue of goose culling as a solution to salt marsh destruction.  The kids were ambivalent about the act.  Many didn’t like the idea, but couldn’t imagine any better solution.  Others thought it made sense given the situation.  One, however, immediately came up with her own idea: Why not make a scarecrow?

So, after a couple months of observation and research, we finally got down to the business of constructing one.  She designed and then created her coyote silhouette by using light, corrugated plastic spray-painted black.  She added a few extra details using acrylic paint and then fastened the scarecrow to a couple of plastic rods using duck tape.  Now to test it!

I was worried about this step.  I really wanted to involve my experts in this part, but things have been so busy!  We really haven’t seen many geese on the Inlet, and I didn’t just want to set it up and leave it there.  I imagined it getting destroyed before my student had even a small chance to observe how effective it was.

Finally, I realized that what we needed to do was take it to the geese!  So, one day after school, I gathered up my boys and we went searching for them.  We wandered around Como Lake (counted 7 all together), checked out the Inlet (still none), tried White Pine Beach (lots of poop, but no birds), and finally ended up hitting the jackpot in Belcarra Park.

I organized to meet my student, her mom, and a couple of her schoolmates at the park Thursday after school.  The geese were there, munching peacefully on the grass.  We approached them, wanting to get the scarecrow within seeing range, but they ignored it.  The kid started approaching them with the scarecrow and without it, testing  to see if there was any difference in their reactions.  We didn’t really notice a huge difference, although the kids were having perhaps a little too much fun chasing them around.

Finally, I figured out that what we needed to do was herd the geese towards the scarecrow to see if, in avoiding us, they would approach the lifeless silhouette.  Interestingly, when the geese got to within about 5 meters of the scarecrow, they would switch directions.  The kids tried this over and over again (5 or 6 times in total) and ended up with the same result every time.  Sometimes the change in direction was dramatic, and the goose would leap into the air and nearly fly into the kids, sending them squealing and laughing.

I was satisfied and relieved to finally help my student follow through with her idea.  I asked her to send me a little write up about the experiment, and although it isn’t as detailed as I would have liked (yet), it makes me feel happy reading it:

On Thursday April 28th we tried the scarecrow out for the first time. It worked very well. At first we just walked up to the geese with the scarecrow, and they ran/ flew away. Then we planted the coyote down in the ground and led a goose toward it. The goose would not get close to the coyote. We tried many times and none of them would go near the coyote. First try with the coyote scarecrow was a success!!!

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