Fewer farms using propane cannons in 2016

Permits to use 'audible bird scare devices' in City of Abbotsford down 23 per cent from last year.

99 farms received permits to operate propane cannons and other devices to scare away birds.

The number of farms registering with the City of Abbotsford to use propane cannons and other noisy devices to ward off birds dropped considerably in 2016.

As of early September, 99 farms had registered to use so-called “audible bird scare devices.” That figure is down from 122 last year, when a new city bylaw came into effect, requiring farms to register to use noise devices to scare birds.

The bylaw gives the city the ability to enforce rules surrounding the use of cannons and fine those who don’t comply. It also requires farmers using the devices to create a bird management plan and post a sign with phone numbers – for city bylaw officers and the Blueberry Council – that can be called by residents who have issues.

The bylaw, though, is limited in its scope, as the use of cannons is protected by the provincial Right to Farm Act and the guidelines surrounding their use are set out by the Ministry of Agriculture. A previous bylaw developed by council was rejected by the ministry in 2013.

The city has received 19 complaints so far in 2016, although those don’t include any calls made to the BC Blueberry Council, which represents the industry. Last year, the city received 20 complaints.

Data gathered by The News last year showed the devices clustered in berry-producing areas in Matsqui, Bradner and around Huntingdon Road.

Asked why there were fewer noise devices registered this year, executive director Debbie Etsell said the BC Blueberry Council has commissioned a report on bird activity in the area over the summer.