Since floundering NY governor David Patterson appointed upstate, pro-NRA Kirsten Gillibrand to the senate, she has introduced a wild array of bills, seemingly aimed at winning over skeptical New Yorkers. This time she wants to rush through the killing of Canada Geese at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge because it’s right near JFK airport.
Gillibrand says she is pushing for the goose cull this summer because ”according to recent news reports, LaGuardia and JFK airports saw increases in bird strikes of 28% and 53%, respectively, between 2009 and 2011.” Notice what’s weird here? Why is the government relying on news reports instead of their own data?
Unlike Sen. Gilibrand and her staff, I bothered to look up the FAA’s birdstrike numbers at JFK.
Bird Strikes at JFK
2008: 147, 2 involving Canada geese
2009: 165, 1 involving Canada geese. The mother of all birdstrikes, the “Miracle on the Hudson,” was from LGA.
2010: 220, 2 involving Canada geese
2011: 257, none involving Canada geese
2012: four, zero involving Canada geese
To put it in the terms Sen. Gilibrand uses, from 2009 to 2011, Canada Geese strikes at JFK have declined 100%.
The last Canada Goose strike at LaGuardia was in October, 2010, and seems to be just a dead goose at the airport since the type of aircraft is marked unknown. Neither of the two 2010 strikes at JFK were described as causing damage.
One reason the overall numbers are going up is that pilots didn’t report them before Captain Sully saved a plane full of people hit by geese. A 2000 report from the USDA (the agency that kills geese and wildlife they don’t like) says airstrikes are wildly underreported. The study focused on JFK, where 87% of strikes went unreported.
After Capt. Sully, the USDA and NYC got together to kill all of the Canada geese at area parks every year. But, since it’s great geese habitat, they’ll have to do it eternally because more geese just keep moving in.
New Yorkers protested Gillibrand’s office Thursday. The argument: killing the local geese won’t really prevent airstrikes. (The ones that hit the “Miracle on the Hudson” plane was migrating from Canada.) And you can’t just kill off every goose around every airport. Canada geese aren’t even the ones that usually hit planes. A study of bird strikes at JFK found that 71% were caused by gulls and 10% by raptors.
So why target them? The campaign to get rid of Canada Geese has more to do with their guano being a nuisance on golf courses and park lawns than anything with airplanes. Long before they were linked to airstrikes, Canada Geese were targeted by the USDA for pooping on grass.
The wildlife refuge doesn’t want to kill the Canada Geese, which have recently hatched chicks, because they think their current program is working. Michael Gannon, an editor at the Queens Chronicle, did one of the most thorough examinations of the issue so far. Don Riepe, the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge guardian, who JFK’s bird hazard task force for 25 years, told him that they’ve already reduced air strikes through more thoughtful programs like habitat reduction.
Ken Paskar of Friends of LaGuardia Airport said he’s not worried about the wildlife refuge as much as a garbage transfer station planned for the end of LaGuardia’s runway. Also, he asks what Gillibrand is going to do with all the other birds on the Atlantic flyway that pass by New York’s massive airports?
Meanwhile, Goosewatch NYC has set up a network to document the goose roundups when the USDA comes to town this summer. Typically they wait till the geese are moulting and can’t fly, then round them up in a van at dawn and gas them. They want residents to call GooseWatch (567-694-6693 or 567-NY-GOOSE) when the USDA trucks show up, so that volunteers can come to the park to document the event, even if they can’t stop it.
In Defense of Animals has a petition against Gillibrand’s bill.
Read about how GooseWatchNYC stopped the cull in Brooklyn’s premiere park
|Where to SEE MOOSE|
|Where to SEE WEIRD BIRDS (All the interesting birds: pelicans, puffins, prairie chickens, vultures, hummingbirds)|