The gull wires and supporting poles have been removed for the season.
For next season, the City will consider modifying the wires and/or hanging reflective strips on them.
Why does the City use a Gull Wire Deterrent System?
The gull deterrent systems that are installed at Mooney’s Bay and Britannia Beach during the summer months have been in place since spring 1991 and fall 2002 respectively. The systems were installed specifically to deter gulls who tend to congregate over the beach area and subsequently drive up the e-coli counts in the waters of the designated swimming areas. The systems were designed based on the high visual acuity of gulls that allows them to see the wires and avoid them.
Following the monitoring and successful results of the use of the system at Mooney’s Bay in the early 1990’s, the City hired a consulting firm in both 1996 to investigate ways to improve the water quality at Britannia Beach following several years of poor water quality results at that location. This included a review of technical literature, and investigation of solutions undertaken in other jurisdictions, analysis of recent bacterial data and re-evaluation of the preferred solutions. Despite the implementation of several measures, water quality remained a challenge and the same farm was asked to do a follow-up review. The 2001 study concluded that interventions that had been attempted had not substantially improved the water quality of the swimming area and that the bacterial problem persisted. The study concluded that the dry weather bacterial problems were likely due to the gull population at the beach as gulls can produce large bacterial loadings in water bodies. The wires installed at Mooney’s Bay Beach had proven effective in reducing bacterial contamination, as well as having been proven effective at other beaches such as Fanshawe Beach near London Ontario. A small-scale pilot was conducted at Britannia Beach, which was effective, and the remainder of the beach implemented the system the following season.
The City of Ottawa has an installation and maintenance program in place for both systems. The poles for the systems at Mooney’s Bay and Britannia are installed in the spring as water levels allow along the Rideau and Ottawa Rivers. The systems are removed in September prior to the annual bird migrations. The City performs routine inspections throughout the summer season to identify, remove or repaired any broken or damaged wires. Lifeguards who are at the beach daily are asked to report damages to ensure timely corrective action. The City’s 311 agents have a system in place to action any damages reported by the public during after hour periods. In terms of bird entanglements, lifeguards have reported one at Mooney’s Bay and two at Britannia this season.
Garbage is emptied on a regular basis at all locations. Garbage bins, for the most part, are a top locking system that deter any wildlife access to contents. They are emptied regularly and a minimum of twice each day. It is observed however that visitors to the beach sites often feed the birds. From study results and monitoring it has been shown that gulls tend to assemble and occupy areas adjacent to beaches and parks, places where people tend to gather with food present. The gulls access the residual foodstuffs, and upon flight takeoff deposit bacteria causing waste over the nearby water.
Other methods have been considered to discourage birds at these and other parks, including the placement of coyote decoys, aerial hazing with drones, ground hazing with sound canons, the application of natural materials that repel birds, and the modification of shoreline landscapes. Though these methods have had a beneficial impact on geese, they have not had much success with gulls that have very different flight and landing behaviors. .
The City is aware of the concerns with the wire system and is exploring other alternatives to discourage birds and reduce their impact on water quality. The 2019 season without wires at Britannia (due to impact of flooding on support posts) was used to evaluate whether the wires continue to improve beach water quality and the impact of their absence for the season. The results indicated that the number of no swims days more than doubled, from 3 in 2018 to 7 in 2019. Work on exploring options for making the wiring safer for birds or finding an alternate solution was to have occurred prior to the 2020 season but the focus on the City’s pandemic response delayed this. The work to identify alternatives is anticipated to resume later this year with any changes implemented for the 2022 beach season.
What kind of wire is used at Britannia Beach?
The great majority of the deterrent system is constructed using monofilament not aircraft cable or metal wires. There are some metal wires within the larger system which are required to support the weight and wind load on the system through the summer season. There may also be other metal wires on site associated with the PA system that may be interpreted as being part of the gull deterrent system.
The City may be able to install more visible wires in 2022; but have also been advised that this may reduce the effectiveness of the system. If the monofilament wiring is substituted and becomes more visible, the birds may simply be able to avoid the wiring and not be deterred from congregating in the area.
The City is exploring other alternatives to discourage birds and reduce their impact on water quality.