The Goosebuster in action. Image: Gerd Braune
After city officials tried using dogs, pungent fertilizers, and human decoys to ward off nesting geese, whose prodigious poop output was leading to dangerously high E. coli levels on a public beach on Petrie Island, they turned to Steve Wambolt, an-ex IBM and Corel employee who designed a hexicopter system fit with lights and blasting predator noises.
“I spent a couple weeks researching and coming up with the lights and sounds to add to the drone,” said Wambolt who originally tried to sell the city a means to survey property using his remote control drone system. Instead, Orleans ward councilor Bob Monette, who made ridding the beach of geese part of his mandate, suggested using the drone for the task.
“From there we came up with a process on how to best scare geese and seagulls with the drone,” Wambolt said.
Over 100 geese were living in the area, chilling on a newly built city beach, eating grass, and leaving drying feces everywhere that granulates into the sand and waterfront. All those birds produce a lot of feces. In fact, statistics show that, over the course of a year, 4,000-plus geese calling the Ottawa River home discharged some 3,600 kilograms of goose poop.
Nationally, the destruction of natural habitats have removed the geese's natural predators, while suburbanization (and the tasty lawns of homes, parks, and golf courses) have left Canadian geese populations booming. And all their poop makes for a ripe breeding ground for bacteria, including E. coli.
Luckily for Ottawa beach dwellers, Wambolt’s non-lethal system has had devastating effects: Last year Orleans Online reported 140 geese were spotted at the beginning of the season, with less than 24 by the end.
Image: Gerd Braune
Starting early in the morning, Wambolt has his drones dive-bombing unsuspecting geese who are chased away to alternative grazing lands. Like other migratory birds, the Canadian goose has migratory patterns and traditional nesting grounds they return to yearly. With repeated and scheduled flights, his Goosebuster disrupts this pattern by retraining the goose to think a predator is in the area.
“The Goosebuster drone appears as a predator,” he said. “We have the advantage of being able to fly and chase the geese a short distance. It uses custom lights and sounds designed to (scare) geese.”
The Goosebuster. Image: Steve Wambolt
Politicians, who’ve spent over a million dollars redeveloping and renewing the beachfront to attract visitors, are praising the new city drone program.
“Since Steve began flying the drone, the beach has only been closed for one day and was one of the most open beaches in the City,” said councilor Monette, adding that E. coli rates dropped after Goosebuster patrols started.
Other municipalities have made calls to Wambolt for the Goosebuster drone to protect crop yields and patrol their beaches. Ultimately, with increasing environmental changes, more Canadian cities might turn to Goosebuster, before other Canadian waterfronts go to the geese.