Feds Gas 400 Prospect Park Geese Instead of Chasing Them Away

doomed geese

Doomed New York Geese

The Agriculture Department’s notorious Wildlife Services arm descended on Brooklyn last week with the quiet approval of the New York City Parks Department to catch and poison by gas all 400 geese that like in Prospect Park. That includes, sadly, a goose that survived an arrow attack and others the community knew as individuals, the New York Times says. The agency that wiped out predators across America now has given themselves the job of killing the animals they would have preyed upon.

The whole technique is crude and clumsy; even for wildlife-hating Agriculture Department, which almost always just scares away Canada geese and doesn’t kill them. They dispersed off 348,193 Canada geese, relocated 4,706 and killed 14,614 (just 4%) in 2007, the last year they bothered to put up statistics on the web.

The point of this particular operation is to keep geese away from airports, so they don’t clog jet engines, like with US Airways Flight 1549. But the geese that live in Prospect Park live there full-time. The ones that hit Captain Sully’s plane were migrating through. In 2007 the feds shot to death 67 and trapped and killed 167 Canada geese in New York state and dispersed far more through various harassment techniques: “hand/voice” 2,703; boat 599; paintballs 10,907, pyrotechnics 3,410; dogs 1,180; “electronic harassment device” 805; gun 192; “car/truck” 635; “all vehicles” including planes 7,315. But that was before Captain Sully.  Last year, the Times says, they killed 1,200 New York City geese. Are more geese round ups planned for other parks?

Wildlife Services is a $71 million branch of APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service) , which officially started in 1972, but is just the latest incarnation of the “biological services” and “predator control” agency that’s been around since the 1850s. They wiped out–and continue to kill–wolves, coyotes, lynx, cougar and anything that could possibly compete with farmers or ranchers.  Their sprawling hit list is nothing short of amazing. Here were their 2007 yields: 1,177,00 starlings; 335,000 cowbirds; 90,000 coyotes; 86,000 pigeons; 16,000 cormorants; 13,000 mourning doves; 13,000 raccoons; 6,000 squirrels; 500 stray dogs; 1,100 prairie dogs; 1,110 feral cats; 6,000 rabbits; 876 robins (including 776 shot on purpose in Mississippi); 400 otters; 344 wolves (including four critically endangered Mexican gray wolves that you are also paying the Fish and Wildlife Service to bring back) 336 cougars; 84 mockingbirds (a sin); 52 pelicans (including one brown pelican, then classified as endangered, intentionally shot in Florida); 43 Sandhill cranes and 1 flamingo. Are there any species they don’t kill?

But even for these yahoos the killing of Canada geese is somewhat rare because they have acknowledged with this species what they haven’t with others: “The integrated approach should include banning the feeding of waterfowl, habitat modification, harassment, control of nesting, and in some cases, legal sport harvest (goose hunting), and humanely implemented removal of geese.” They are already using birth control for Canada geese, either oiling the eggs or feeding the flock a drug called OvoControl, which contains 0.5 percent nicarbazin (something they already feed to chickens we eat).

Even under President Obama this agency is run with a bewildering belief that everyone else is wrong about animals and they are somehow vessels of the only true understanding of why they have to kill them all. In January of this year they spent your tax dollars to produce a report that would win you an game of business buzzword bingo, complete with an asinine “values” section. (Value number one: integrity). Their #2 “key challenge” is that urban and suburban Americans don’t appreciate what a kick-ass job they’re doing killing wildlife. “Fewer individuals have an understanding of the interface between wildlife and agriculture, much less the potential damage that wildlife can cause to farmers or other sectors of rural economies. This makes it increasingly difficult for the public to understand and appreciate the need for reducing wildlife damage related to agriculture production in rural environments.” That’s right, it’s not possible that American disagree with the policy, find it ineffective or unscientific. It’s just that we couldn’t possibly understand the important work they do.

Nobody is going to prefer geese over air passengers, but that doesn’t mean killing off geese translate to any bit of air safety. Generally, just killing off any species from a particular area doesn’t work. If that habitat is right, other animals just move right in. They could accomplish better results with hiring a goose-chasing dog or — for free–strategically placing dog runs or off-leash hours and areas.

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