Fate of feral geese in St Ouen's Bay under review

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THE fate of around 500 feral geese in St Ouen’s Bay still hangs in the balance as scientists continue to monitor them closely, following the discovery of bird flu in the flock.

A discussion about whether to cull the birds continues as the States Natural Environment Department gathers more ‘scientific evidence’ to determine whether they pose a risk to other wildlife.

Environmentalist Bob Tompkins said: ‘I’m a little puzzled because if a domestic flock has avian flu the whole flock is culled. I think they’re being very cautious before making their decision.

‘It’s a big flock and this could be an isolated case where a couple of birds have just flown in with flu but not passed it on. They could be awaiting the analysis of more test results in the UK before making a decision.’

Mr Tompkins explained that greylag geese were raised commercially for food. ‘They are a domestic goose,’ he said. ‘They’ve come from a domestic flock originally, but are wild now and have been increasing in number. They are a menace. They’re aggressive and dominate the site.’

But he added that he did not think the delay in deciding whether to cull the birds was increasing the risk to other wildlife as they were being monitored so closely. He said the behaviour of other birds in the area, such as marsh harriers and buzzards, which hunt alone and nest in pairs, meant the risk of contagion was low.

Mr Tompkins said: ‘There has been culling during the night in the past because of the danger to aircraft. You can understand them being cautious in the scheme of things as there might be an uproar if they cull them all.’

Natural Environment group director Willie Peggie said last week: ‘We are going to keep a close eye on them but we don’t want to make any decision unless it is based on scientific evidence.’

Fifteen greylag geese have been found dead over the past month and bird flu was confirmed in the flock a week ago.

The public are being asked to report any dead birds found via the online form: gov.je/birdflu.

Jersey’s deputy chief veterinary officer Dr Caroline Tetburgh recently wrote to birdkeepers in the Island to remind them of the importance of biosecurity measures. She urged owners to keep poultry separate from wild birds, where possible, to prevent spread of the disease.

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