Woodpecker defence underway

The Vernon arts centre is being protected against troublesome woodpeckers in a project undertaken by the North Okanagan regional district.

Fake owls didn't work. A sound machine didn't work. A smelly paint didn't work.

But now officials with North Okanagan regional district say they've finally found a way to protect Vernon's performing arts centre from nesting damage done by Northern Flicker woodpeckers.

Enter Shane Schorr and a new spray-on polymer coating.

"It dries within seconds and, as tested, is impenetrable to birds," Schorr says in a regional district release.

The centre's 8,000 square foot exterior facade is now being sprayed with the coating. It's being mixed with paint, so the building is also getting a fresh new look.

"In effect, we have accomplished two major facility repair and maintenance projects at the same time, which saves costs," says Tannis Nelson, the regional district's manager of community services.

The work is expected to be complete in time for the resumption of public performances at the art centre in September.

Over the years, various methods were tried to keep Northern Flicker woodpeckers off the arts centre. The birds, between seven and 15 inches long, can cause extensive damage to stucco, plywood, pine, and other types of siding.

Control methods didn't work, and the building was riddled with many large nesting holes. The woodpeckers also pulled insulation from behind the stucco, and the facade was marked with smaller punctures where the birds had trapped insects.

Last year, the regional district budgeted $150,000 for a permanent fix and invited a variety of proposals.

After a year's worth of testing of ecologically friendly solutions, Tannis says, the regional district contracted Schorr's company, OKC Coatings, to do the job.

Okanagan businessman Keith Eisenkrein said his company, EIFS Armour, helped the centre handle an infestation in 2014 when the birds pecked about 190 holes in one side of the building.

"(The northern flicker) is the most invasive and damaging bird in bird history and (they're) also a protected creature, protected under the migratory bird act. You can't harm them," Eisenkrein said.

- with a file from The Canadian Press