A SOUTH Lakeland conservationist has slammed a planned cull of Canada Geese on Windermere as ‘a total massacre’.

Clive Hartley hit out at the Lake District National Park Authority (LDNPA), which is considering killing around 200 of the birds this spring.

It follows complaints from landowners about geese eating grass and crops and there are also concerns their droppings affect water quality.

An LDNPA spokesman said it would be the first time it had carried out a cull but numbers had ‘reached a point where we have to take action’.

Mr Hartley, of Grange-over-Sands, resigned from the authority’s geese management group, saying he was ‘disgusted’ at the plans as they had ‘no scientific justification’.

“At that time of year, the geese are found in big flocks and are looking for protection from predators – you can walk up to them,” he said.

“It’s not a cull, it’s a slaughter as far as I’m concerned.”

The naturalist said Canada Geese numbers had ‘fluctuated’ over the years but had not ‘gone over the top’.

“From a wildlife point of view, I know Windermere as good as anybody,” he explained.

“I think, in the 21st Century, it’s a great pity and a sad reflection of our country that with issues to do with wildlife, the answer is to start killing them.

“It’s happening with badgers at the moment – where do you draw the line?”

Mr Hartley, who makes a monthly count of all waterbirds on Windermere, said there were around 661 Canada Geese on Windermere.

But LDNPA ranger Steve Tatlock said the number was around 1,200, which was why the cull had been proposed.

“Mr Hartley’s figures are based purely on land-based observations, whereas ours are carried out from a boat giving us a more complete survey and picture of overall numbers,” he said.

Mr Tatlock said the geese were a ‘non-native species’ and a cull would improve water quality, help with land management, address farming concerns and protect tourist activities.

“We understand that this is an emotive issue,” he said.

“If a cull does take place, it will be to the highest possible professional standards.”

Mr Hartley said the group had recommended increasing the cull from 200 to 600. But he said this ‘would be a total massacre, not a cull’.

The LDNPA said it would gather more scientific data about local movements of geese on lakes such as Windermere.

A spokesman for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) said the group would not object to the ‘legal control of Canada Geese, so long as all non-lethal methods’ were considered and licence conditions were met.