A woodpecker has taken up residence in the World’s Largest Hockey Stick at the Cowichan Community Centre. (Photo courtesy Lorraine Francisty)

A woodpecker has taken up residence in the World’s Largest Hockey Stick at the Cowichan Community Centre. (Photo courtesy Lorraine Francisty)

Resilient woodpecker stymies caretakers of Cowichan’s Big Stick

Northern flicker has drilled two holes in World’s Largest Hockey Stick

Staff at the Cowichan Community Centre are trying to figure out how to deal with a resilient woodpecker that has bored a hole in the World’s Largest Hockey Stick.

The woodpecker — identified as a northern flicker — first appeared earlier this month, drilling a hole in the blade of the stick, just above the tape.

Cowichan Community Centre facilities operation manager Brad Coleman said last Wednesday that he first heard reports of the woodpecker the previous week. Staff looked into the situation, and, lacking a lift that would get anyone high enough, they used a pole to stuff steel wool into the hole. That appeared to do the trick for a few days, but the bird was back a few days later.

Late last week, a bucket truck was used to get closer to the hole, and it was determined there wasn’t a nest. Staff put a patch over the hole, but the determined bird returned and pecked another one.

“As the regional district we do have this huge asset to look after, and we don’t want to have it full of holes and filling up with water,” Cowichan Valley Regional District board chair Lori Iannidinardo said. “But it is mating season and we suspect this woodpecker is getting ready to nest and attract a mate. So our staff have been researching options for deterring it from the stick and encouraging it to find another location.”

Earlier this week, staff affixed a plastic owl to the stick, hoping to spook the woodpecker. While that seemed to work for a few hours, the bird came back once again, so a few other solutions are being considered.

“We may try to position the owl closer to the hole, and may try putting a nesting box up there to see if that piques their interest,” Iannidinardo said. “But there is also the possibility we may just need to let the bird use it for the season and fix it up later.”

Built of Douglas fir for Expo 86 in Vancouver, the 62.48-metre stick was moved to North Cowichan and has stood at the Cowichan Community Centre since 1988. This is the first incident involving a woodpecker that Coleman is aware of.

“We had bugs at one time, but we took care of that when we refinished it,” Coleman said. “But we’ve never had birds that I know of.”

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