The Smelt Bay Goose Hunt

On Monday, November 6, Max Thaysen and Travis Powiak posted a notice on the Tideline. They would be hunting Canada geese at Smelt Bay and Hollyhock Beach, between 12 and 3 PM, on Thursday. 

“I like eating goose for a variety of reasons, including wanting to have the most ethical and environmentally responsible diet that I possibly can,” Max explained.

Image credit: Max Thaysen – submitted photo

However, there was a problem.  

Max Thaysen: “Geese like to spend time in many of the same places that humans like to spend time.  There can be some issues around getting access to the geese, and working around the humans.”

“So, me and a friend of mine, Travis, have come up with a plan where we could let the community know that there’s some hunting planned in a restricted time period. People can choose to go elsewhere if they don’t want to see or hear that kind of thing, or if they have dogs who are sensitive to loud noises. We plan to put up some signs to also help people know what’s going on.”

“The world is a very complicated place  and probably anytime we operate by simple rules like ‘eating meat is bad for the environment,’  we might lose some nuance and some details. I think in this case, that’s very much true.”

“There is pretty much no way of eating that has zero impact.”

“So to the extent that you can, make the best decisions based on where you are and what you have access to. I think that it quite often includes eating meat. In this case it’s an invasive species. It’s having an impact. So any amount of invasive species meat  consumption that offsets any other food, even vegetarian food, has actually, in my opinion, a much lower impact than the alternatives.”

“The impact of, say cutting down a rainforest in order to grow feed to ship to a feedlot and fill it with beef animals that are kept healthy through antibiotics and then putting all of their concentrated waste into the nearest river and allowing those creatures to belch methane in the atmosphere, that’s really bad.”

“We need to stop doing that, but there are other kinds of meat eating that I think can actually be beneficial for the ecosystem. For example, eating invasive species solves one environmental problem by solving another problem, which is that human beings who are alive need to eat.” 

Cortes Currents: Why do you call Canada geese an invasive species?

Max Thaysen: My understanding from speaking to our resident biologists, Sabina Leader Mense, as well as reading some articles about it, is that they have become an invasive species.  Invasive being defined as  a species whose population has become a problem for other species and who are tending towards degrading habitats. In the case of the Canada goose, the resident ones which are non migratory, they spend year round in our coastal waters. They eat a lot of eelgrass, which is a really important ecosystem for a lot of species, including salmon.”

“There are several programs along the coast to reduce their numbers. People are doing culls in other communities. People are fencing them out in some places to preserve habitat. People are addling eggs so that the reproductive success is lower for the Canada goose.”

“There’s lots of programs across the coast to try to reduce their numbers, and thereby reduce their impacts.  Eating them is, I think, a real win, win, win opportunity because humans have to eat and geese are delicious and nutritious.”

“We thought as a starting point that we would just pick one afternoon, a three hour period, probably won’t take that long though.”

“The  geese are usually at the corner of Smelt Bay that is close to where the road turns. It’s well outside of the park and the geese are usually out on the water there. There can be sufficient distance from the houses to be within regulations. The regulations say they need to be 100 metres from the nearest dwelling or inhabited building.”

Cortes Currents: Have you been getting any feedback about the hunt?  

Max Thaysen: “A lot of the feedback is from people who are concerned about the legality. When people come from a culture that doesn’t regularly include hunting, there can be a lot of fear and concern around hunting. The assumption is often that it is illegal, period.”

I did a story for Cortes Currents a few years ago that investigated a similar situation, where somebody was really concerned about this hunting that was happening. A large part of the concern was that something illegal was happening that involved firearms and that’s a reasonable response. If illegal things are happening that include firearms, that can be a scary thing, but it turned out that that wasn’t illegal.”

“The fear kind of evaporated largely once the person learned about the situation. That’s part of our intent too: help people understand that  this is normal for people who are  inhabiting a slightly different culture, including a culture that includes hunting and it’s also legal. I think those two things can really help people to understand and feel safe.”

“Some of the other feedback I think is just a bit of a cultural difference where some people think that nature is something that should be looked at and not interacted with or lived with.  I think that there’s a lot of ‘out of sight, out of mind’ sort of stuff. So people, when they imagine hunting, they can form a clear picture in their head of animals dying and it’s unpleasant for them, especially if it’s not something they’re used to. That feels a lot more violent than, say, going to the store.”

“If you peel back the surface a little bit about what’s going on with our food systems, you can easily go to the grocery store and see a lot of violence going on.  People have been dispossessed of their land in order to get some of that food produced for us.  Habitats have been destroyed. Habitat destruction is sort of like a sanitized term, but what it means is the mama and the papa animal are unable to feed their children because there’s not enough  places where their food is growing because humans have changed the landscape.  There’s all kinds of violence in the human food systems and some of them are a little bit more present than others.”

“I actually think that it’s healthier to bring them closer to us than to keep them further away where people can’t experience them, interact with them.”

“People care deeply about the natural world, and that’s a beautiful thing. It can be hard to calibrate that in the world that we live in, where our food systems disconnect us from the impacts of how they work and what they do.”

Top image credit: Canada Geese swimming in single file – Photo by Blondinrikard Fröberg via Flickr (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

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One thought on “The Smelt Bay Goose Hunt”

  1. I’ve taken a lot of the local geese in the past, in places I was legally allowed to shoot with the permission of land owners. They are a good source of food and taken in sufficient quantity could provide a resource for FN elders as well as non FN people who have a difficult time stretching food budgets. Targeting hunters after legal prey is just another form of harassment. People who disagree with hunting do not have to hunt themselves. Surely there is enough room for both. I just took a nice buck for the freezer with some to share. Which I do. Both the province and the federal government regulate hunting via the licensing system. I have to hold both provincial and federal licenses if I want to take deer and geese. Both of those licensing opportunities can be lost if a hunter disobeys the rules of both venues so most hunters are VERY careful where and when they hunt.

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