Did you know the federal government rounds up and kills Canada geese in New York City parks? Probably not, because officials don’t want you to know. They generally do not publicize these operations or solicit public comment about them.
That is your tax dollars at work, secretly slaughtering innocent wildlife when they are most vulnerable: during molting season, when they cannot fly for about six weeks, and when their baby goslings have hatched and must be protected.
Round-ups occur at parks and golf courses throughout the city. In the last two years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture rounded up and gassed to death 368 geese in just one Brooklyn park, Prospect Park. When not ambushed by federal officers and contractors, these birds live about 20 years.
They mate for life.
The government says it has to kill the geese not because they are doing or have done any harm, but because they might fly into a plane and cause an accident. When a plane’s engine, which sucks in air, also sucks in birds, their bodies can disable the engine. This is sometimes called “bird strike,” though it seems more like “plane strike” considering that the plane is traveling much faster and creating powerful suction as it goes.
The government’s extreme measures to kill geese create the appearance that bird strike is common and catastrophic, but the numbers show otherwise. Wipaire, Inc. Engineering Manager Dan Garrett says that “there are very very few crashes related to bird ingestion,” in part because the federal government has already enacted regulations that protect plane engines from the effects of sucking in birds and mulching their bodies.
There are alternatives to preventing bird ingestion. Two of these were implemented in Prospect Park in Brooklyn this year: goose eggs were oiled to prevent oxygen from reaching the embryos, and a border collie chased geese away. These methods are less than ideal because of the trauma they cause protective goose parents, but they did reduce the park’s bird population: only “about 23 adult geese” live in the park now, as opposed to the hundreds who used to make it their home.
Other alternatives to reducing goose populations include using bird radar and modifying the environment around airports.
Nevertheless, the publicly-funded, covert slaughters continue. By June 29th this year, the USDA had “corralled and hauled away 255 geese at 12 parks, with a goal of capturing 400 geese at 14 parks,” The New York Times reported.
But the violence does not go unopposed. GooseWatch NYC aims to combat the killings, first by documenting them and exposing them to the public, which it has worked on doing this year. The organization recruited volunteers to watch parks daily and, if they witnessed a round-up or kill, to document it and to call other volunteers to witness it.
As a fan of the Prospect Park geese and their goslings, who are a charming pleasure to watch, I will be supporting GooseWatch NYC. To join in GooseWatch NYC’s work, you can “like” them on Facebook or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow them on Twitter.
Photo Credit: Eric BĂ©gin