GROWING condemnation over plans to cull 200 Canada geese on Windermere has sparked a re-think by national park bosses.
Staunch opponents of the proposal handed over a 2,600-signature petition to the Lake District National Park Authority this week, urging it to ‘stop this blood bath now’.
Plans to shoot the birds this spring, after complaints from landowners about geese eating crops and claims their droppings harm Windermere’s water quality, have caused uproar among conservationists, animal charities, and celebrities.
In a face-to-face showdown with the LDNPA’s park services director Bob Cartwright, placard-waving protesters called on the authority to ‘listen to public opinion’ and consider non-lethal methods of control.
LDNPA ranger Steve Tatlock this week revealed that the geese management group would ‘review its decision in light of presentations made to the authority’.
It comes as senior management at Cumbria Tourism prepare to discuss the issue ‘in depth’ at a meeting today.
Petition organiser Neil Ryding, who warned the cull would put tourists off visiting the area, said the LDNPA’s review showed ‘there was hope’.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” he said. “If this means the geese are going to be saved, that’s the whole reason we started the petition.”
However, Mr Tatlock told the Gazette that people had reported problems caused by Canada geese near Coniston Water and Grasmere.
He said: “I have heard, anecdotally, that farmers in the Rydal and Grasmere areas are struggling to make economic use of the land.”
Mr Tatlock could not say whether a cull would be extended, as geese numbers on other lakes were not known, but said he hoped counts would take place in the future.
Since the Gazette first revealed the plan, the RSPCA and Animal Aid have joined in widespread criticism, and won the backing of celebrity bird watcher Bill Oddie and Queen guitarist Brian May.
They argue there is ‘little evidence’ the geese are to blame for lake pollution.
Geese management group member Dr Ian Winfield admitted there was no ‘scientific evidence’ about the effects of the birds on Windermere.
Defending the cull, he said decision-makers could ‘transfer experiences’ from other places to make a ‘professional judgement’.
Kathy Musker, of Respect for Wildlife, said: “This slaughter will be detrimental to tourism, and turn a beautiful part of the country into a blood bath.”
Campaigners want humane methods of bird control used, including egg ‘oiling’ to prevent hatching, and using sheepdogs to round up the birds and make them fly elsewhere.