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Geese, deer damage force Galeys to scale back farm

Dec 06 2012
Rob Galey, left, and his dad, Ray, point out damage caused by deer and geese in their fields on Galey Farms. The Galeys said Wednesday they have to close leased fields in the the Interurban-Hastings area. 

Rob Galey, left, and his dad, Ray, point out damage caused by deer and geese in their fields on Galey Farms. The Galeys said Wednesday they have to close leased fields in the the Interurban-Hastings area.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam, Times Colonist , Times Colonist

One of Greater Victoria's major growers of fruit and vegetables is downsizing because crops are being destroyed by deer and geese.

"Galey Farms is retreating back to Blenkinsop. We're pulling out the white flag," said Rob Galey. "We are cancelling our leases along Interurban and Hastings Road."

Galey leases about 20 properties and the withdrawal will take about 12 hectares out of production. It is unlikely other farmers will pick up leases as everyone is having the same problems, Galey said.

In recent years, Galey has given up other leases, resulting in his total farmland dropping to 60 hectares from 120. And he fears that unless something is done to radically reduce deer and goose populations, his whole farm will be gone in three or four years.

"I will be bankrupt and we will have lost another commercial farming family in Saanich. And once we are gone, we are gone forever," Galey said.

"I am being robbed. If I was a doughnut shop or a coffee shop, the police would be all over it," said Galey, who is heading to Vancouver this week to buy new raspberry canes after deer ate this year's fruit as well as the stems that would have provided future crops.

There should be enough fruit and vegetables to supply farm-stall customers next year, but not enough for wholesalers, he said.

"Once the wholesale clients find a new supplier, how do you get them back? It just makes you want to cry."

Galey and other farmers had hoped the Capital Regional District would find a solution before the next growing season, but now have lost faith that anything will happen to change the situation.

CRD staff report summarizes a citizens advisory committee's recommendations, which range from bylaws allowing higher fences to a trap-and-kill program. The report will go to the CRD board this month before being sent to municipalities.

Deterrents must be tried before the regional district will ask the province to approve a cull or to change hunting regulations.

A few controversial proposals, such as hiring professional sharpshooters and reducing distance regulations for firearms and bows, have been scrapped.

The CRD has been working with farmers, the province and First Nations on a goose management strategy since 2010.

The strategy recommends habitat modification, hazing, egg addling (shaking eggs so they don't hatch) and more efficient hunting or, possibly, a managed goose kill.

Galey does not want to kill deer and geese himself, but wants a regional strategy.

"I want someone to take responsibility for this and everyone says, 'It's not me,' " he said, adding deterrents have not worked. "We have tried fencing and we have tried deterrents with cougar and wolf urine.

"The mother deer are teaching their fawns to be domestic deer and steal and dig under fences," he said.

The population has exploded and there are often 15 deer in one field, he said.

"The only predator that deer have in Saanich is the automobile."

jlavoie@timescolonist.com

> Expect fewer choices at farm stands next year, A4

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