NYC birders' patrol stops goose cull plan. Is all the geese killing for airplanes or lawns?

Brooklyn birders scored a small victory over the USDA’s Wildlife Services unit, which was planning to kill a couple thousand Canada geese around New York City. Thanks to a plan to keep a nonstop watch over the beloved geese in Prospect Park to document the cull, the old predator-elimination federal agency called off catching birds there.

The USDA’s APHIS doesn’t like Canada Geese to begin with. The 2004 overall New York management plan calls for managing ways to get rid of them. They’ve studied ways to get rid of the birds in nearby Orange County, NY, just because people don’t like their droppings. But after flight 549, when Sully landed a plane in the Hudson after it struck Canada geese, they stepped up the killing. They corral them when they are molting and can’t fly, then truck them to an undisclosed location and gas them to death.

Because Canada geese are so infrequently involved with aircraft and the ones that live in the park tend to stay there, it’s a little dubious that aircraft safety is the pure intent of the cull. In fact, the USDA papers, obtained by scribd, cite both Flight 549 (the dramatic reason generally supported by the public) and “turf grass/lawn….fecal droppings on grassy areas, potential decrease in recreational use.”

Last year the USDA started what will be a permanent plan to go out every spring when the geese are moulting (and easy to catch), round them up in an expanding area around the airports and kill them.

The goose watch included somebody waiting for the USDA to show up at all hours (but especially the early morning when they like to work). That person would then text or tweet their arrival and 100 or so volunteers would show up.

The HSUS showed video of a similar goose cull in Virginia with devastating PR impact on the practice. The geese were killed in a van, then thrown out in trashbags.

Bird and animal watchers have also been trying some other tactics:

Protest–An old fashioned protest in front of City Hall to show that New Yorkers actually do care about the city’s wildlife–even geese considered a nuisance by some.

Lawsuit–I’m not sure exactly what the grounds will be, but something along the lines that killing masses of Canada geese every year is unnecessary, dumb, unrelated to plane crash prevention, expensive and cruel. No one is sure how much the plan–which has to be carried out every year in perpetuity–costs.

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