Starling traps shining bright

A program for removing starling birds from vineyards, orchards and other agricultural land is shining bright in the Okanagan.

The B.C. Grapegrowers Association starling control program was instituted in 2003.

Since the program's inception until the end of 2016, trappers had removed just under 750,000 starlings, which are an invasive species native to Europe that prey largely on vineyards.

Four trappers work across the Okanagan and place traps in areas that see a lot of starling activity, according to BCGA program manager Tyrion Miskell.

The starlings are moved to an enclosed box and euthanized once they are trapped.

Miskell said less of the invasive birds means that farmers don't lose as much of their crops, adding that some vineyards have lost 10 per cent of their yearly harvest due to starlings. 

The difference with trapping starlings compared to other bird control measures, she said, is that trapping starlings does a more effective job to reduce their population.

"Netting stops (starlings) from eating your fruit but doesn't get rid of the problem... Propane cannons scare them off, but they will come back," Miskell said. "But you're just moving them to someone else's farm, and there is a huge amount of agriculture in this valley. We're trying to control the problem for everyone."

The use of bird cannons in particular was brought to council in Oliver by one noise-concerned resident this week. 

Miskell acknowledged that the BCGA can't fully eradicate the crop-eating birds, but said the starling species has diminished in recent years thanks partially to their program.

"After several years of research, we found that we now know that the trapping we're doing is working properly, that we're doing the right thing."

According to Tyrion, the program is partially funded by the three regional districts across the valley, and partially by different agricultural groups in the region.

She said the biggest single-source of income for the program comes from the BCGA.

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