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It's Toronto the Good as far as double-crested cormorants are concerned.

Instead of a lethal cull to control the spread across Tommy Thompson Park of the largest cormorant colony on the Great Lakes, the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority will rely on passive methods, such as inviting people to practise tai chi or roller skate in the areas where the birds aren't wanted.

"In no way would I support a cull as happened at Point Pelee on Middle Island," authority chairwoman Gerri Lynn O'Connor said.

Parks Canada sharpshooters carried out a cull this month on Middle Island, part of Point Pelee National Park on Lake Erie, after fending off an attempt by Cormorant Defenders International to obtain a court order prohibiting the killing.

In contrast, the birds that occupy 7,200 nests on the Toronto park that juts five kilometres into Lake Ontario on the manmade Leslie Street spit, get to keep their space - about nine hectares of the 471-hectare total - where they have destroyed most of the tree cover.

The authority wants to ensure that the birds don't expand any farther into the park. Regular human activity, such as hiking, cycling and skating on the trail that runs up the spine of the spit, should keep the shy birds within bounds, the authority was told yesterday.

"Establishing a tai chi class there every morning will be most of the deterrent we need," said Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre), an authority member.

Yesterday, animal-rights activists paid tribute to the conservation authority for having one of the most progressive cormorant strategies on the continent, but expressed regret that it approved a research project that will involve oiling eggs in 30 nests and using a placebo in another 60.

Ainslie Willock of Canadians for Snow Geese pointed out that the only reason for egg oiling is to reduce the population, and that's not an objective in the authority's cormorant management plan.

Furthermore, the research could hinder other objectives, such as containing cormorants in their current location on the spit, and to encourage the birds to nest on the ground, instead of in trees, which are killed by their nutrient-rich droppings.

"If you're oiling eggs on the ground, you're forcing birds up onto trees," Ms. Willock said.

Others said egg oiling is inhumane, suffocating chicks in the shell. Authority staff told the meeting that guidelines prohibit oiling 18 days after the egg has been laid.

Mr. De Baeremaeker argued that it would be better for the research to be done by another agency, such as the Ontario Natural Resources Ministry, which oils eggs routinely.

But Ms. O'Connor disagreed. "I think we have to support our scientists," she said after all but two authority members voted in favour of the project by York University's Gail Fraser to study whether the disruption that technicians cause in approaching the nests is significantly reduced if done at night.

The cormorant colonies are on three peninsulas on the west side of the spit. The largest colony of black-crowned night herons in Canada shares the space.

The authority wants to preserve the tree cover on a fourth peninsula, which extends past a marina, and has remained free of cormorants.

The cormorant, once bought close to extinction by DDT, is a federally protected bird.