I got a distressing e-mail today by a member of a bird club. It seems that 400 Canada Geese were rounded up in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park earlier this week and euthanized with Carbon Dioxide. The reason given was that they were planning on “eliminating” all Canada Geese near Kennedy and LaGuardia Airports for airline safety reasons. Ironically, the geese in the “birders haven” of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge--which is actually closer to Kennedy Airport than Prospect Park is to either of them--are safe “for now,” according to several web sites which carried a version of the story.
The “elimination” was carried out by the Department of Agriculture, which claimed it was necessary. Also supportive of this “mass euthanasia” is the Audubon Society. Its spokeswoman realizes that “. . . when you’re trying to maintain a population level, hard decisions have to be made.” (Quoted from NYTimes web site, linked below.)
Against the euthanasia--although it’s too late, the geese are dead--are mainly private citizens who feed and photograph the geese, who they became attached to.
I have mixed feelings about this mass avicide. On one hand, there is no denying that geese and airports are a bad mix. Geese did cause that crash last January, and if the weather conditions were a little worse, or if a less experienced captain than Chesley Sullenberger had been at the helm, the geese would have killed over 100 people. Had that plane crash been fatal, I doubt there would be a single goose left in the New York Tri-State area where I live. They would have rounded them up long ago.
I had a few biology professors who were not lovers of Canada Geese. They claimed their feces was causing too many nutrients to get into certain bodies of water, leading to algae blooms and the death of fish and other marine and freshwater animals. So there are valid reasons why a large population of geese may have to be culled. Like the deer population in my home state of New Jersey, the population of geese has risen greatly, and there may not be enough resources to support a population of this size.
I love geese and deer, but I would rather see some of them face a quick death via hunting than a slow death from starvation, because their populations are bigger than their food supply.
However, this particular goose roundup seems to be arbitrary and cruel. The locals in Brooklyn were not informed ahead of time that the geese would be taken away, and were horrified to see them gone. Even more disturbingly, it seems like there was no compelling reason why these geese were the ones to go. According to those quoted in the Times article, these were resident, not migratory geese, and it was migratory geese that caused the plane crash eighteen months ago. Also, there were two injured birds who rangers were trying to save recently, one with an injured beak, one with an arrow in his neck. In the end, they weren’t saved. It is believed they are in the landfill with all the other geese. One minute a goose is a sort of pet, worthy of veterinary care; the next minute they are a pest that needs to be killed. I find that the most troubling of all.
Frankly, since Prospect Park is not that close to the airports (about 6.5 miles, according to the Times), and the geese in Jamaica Bay are being left alone, I have serious doubts that these geese were killed because of airline safety. I suspect it is for another reason: they have become a nuisance to somebody, so they have to go.
Animosity towards Canada Geese runs deep. In several web sites I looked at while researching this story, while airline safety is the first reason given to justify culling, it is not the only one. Goose droppings and destroyed lawns are usually mentioned in there as well. I have a serious problem with killing geese because of lawn maintenance care.
I remember a professional development I went to as a substitute years ago. The speaker was an ecologist, who gave us some tips on classroom activities we could do with our students. He was also very politically liberal. He had a bumper sticker complaining that schools had to hold bake sales while the military got federal funds for their weapons. I admit that I do not share his politics, realizing that nobody could sell enough cupcakes to buy a stealth bomber--but whatever. Most eco-types are to the left. At least his love of birds was sincere.
Unless of course, they pooped on his beloved golf course. For several minutes, this former hippie railed against the Canada Geese and how they interfered with his ability to hit a little ball into a little hole at his country club. He loved nature only when it didn’t interfere with his upscale hobbies. I was dumbfounded by what I felt was his hypocrisy.
Unfortunately, I have found that his attitude is far from unique. Organizations dedicating themselves to protecting one animal will call for the wholesale destruction of another. People will take trendy “animal rights” positions, only to abandon them when the animals get annoying. And since Canada Geese can be very annoying, they will be targeted for a long time.
So what can sincere goose lovers do? Below are three organizations dedicated to saving these beautiful brown, black and white birds. Also, read some of the other Canada Goose related articles on bellaonline. There are a few of them, especially in the Controversies section.
Note: Since my original posting of the article, the spokewoman of the Audubon Society has claimed that the New York Times either did not quote her correctly, or mischaracterized her statement. In a letter to the Green Party, she claimed that the Audubon Society only supports euthanasia as a last resort. However, since the Audubon Society wants all cats rounded up and put to sleep, and opposes other means to control the cat population, I suspect the Times did not misquote her.