THUNDER BAY — Mechanic-turned-innovator Ernie Barrie believes he's found the solution to a problem that plagues parks, golf courses, picnic spots and beaches across North America.
The retired Thunder Bay man, 83, spent five years developing an electronic device that he says is effective at persuading Canada geese to vacate an area without harming them.
Marketed simply as Goose Chaser, it's a battery-powered device with a remote control that generates the sounds of a vicious, barking dog and the sounds of geese honking in distress.
"No matter where you go, on school grounds, playgrounds, soccer fields, wherever you go there's a problem with geese," Barrie said Tuesday in an interview. "When you turn this thing on, it works wonderfully."
He was a heavy-duty mechanic for years, and always had a passion for creating and improving things.
His journey to Goose Chaser began not in a workshop but rather at his rural home where he was bothered by geese disrupting the tranquility of country life.
When he was unable to find a suitable product in the marketplace, Barrie decided he needed to solve his dilemma himself.
The finished product is a waterproof wooden box weighing about 1.3 kilograms, with some electrical components and a speaker inside.
Barrie assembles the units at his home.
He said gathering the sound effects was one of the most challenging parts of the project.
"It was time-consuming. Just unbelievable. You've got to find the geese, you've got to chase them."
So far, Barrie said, he's made three or four sales across North America, but he hopes that now that his website is complete he'll have more success with marketing.
"Everybody's sick of geese. I mean, you phone Vancouver or Halifax. They're all trying to chase geese away. And here, the same thing. The parks department, at the marina, they're trying to chase geese."
The City of Thunder Bay has a goose control program that includes using dogs to divert geese from parks.
Canada geese are protected by the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, but the population can be managed in various ways under permit from the Canadian Wildlife Service.
According to the federal government, the population has increased dramatically in abundance and geographic distribution during recent decades.
Most regional surveys show that their numbers are either increasing or stable, but overall the population is at an unprecedented high.
In many parts of southern Canada, they now exist in large numbers where only 30 years ago they were uncommon, and 55 years ago were considered to be extirpated.
On a government website, it's noted that "large flocks can denude grassy areas, including parks, pastures, golf courses, lawns, and other landscaped areas where the grass is kept short and where there are ponds, lakes, and other bodies of water nearby, necessitating expensive turf-management activities by landowners. Excessive goose droppings in some areas where large numbers of people and geese co-exist can be a concern. Agricultural and natural resource damage, including depredation of grain crops, overgrazed pastures and degraded water quality, have increased as Canada Goose populations have grown."
More information on the management of Canada geese is available online.