Saturday, June 13, 2009

Culling Canada Geese

New York City plans to cull 2,000 Canada Geese from around the city's airports to prevent further collisions between birds and aircraft.

The immediate culling effort — in which the birds will be euthanized — will cost as much as $100,000, Mr. Skyler said, to be shared by the city and the authority. The 40 parks in Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and the Bronx will include Fort Totten and Flushing Meadows-Corona; culling will also take place at city properties like wastewater-treatment plants.

Subsequently, the city will assume the entire cost — $250,000 — of filling in a large land depression on Rikers Island that has attracted geese, Mr. Skyler said. In addition, the city will install signs prohibiting the feeding of geese and other animals in wildlife habitats. The authority will also expand shotgun training for its field wildlife supervisors, for cases where captures are not feasible.
The state estimates that there are 20,000-25,000 Canada Geese within a five mile radius of the city's two airports. As a New York Audubon spokesman points out, removing 2,000 of that population is not going to make a huge difference, especially considering how rapidly geese reproduce. Pairs of Canada Geese will produce several broods over the course of a spring, each of which may have a dozen eggs. Even with normal attrition, that 2,000 should be replaced relatively rapidly.

A second issue is that this action is directed against the resident goose population, but the geese that collided with Flight 1549 were migratory geese from Labrador. While hunting of migratory geese is legal (with proper permits), culling large numbers of them is far more fraught since migratory flocks may include individuals from rare or even threatened subspecies. Because of these factors, culling the resident geese around the airports is only a short-term solution to the problem of bird strikes. Luckily, it looks like they will be testing a bird radar as well.

Update: The plan inspired a protest by Friends of Animals:
Just a few blocks north of Union Square, a crowd gathered outside the headquarters of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey on Tuesday afternoon to protest New York City’s plan to kill at least 2,000 geese during their molting season, a time when the geese cannot fly. The protesters accused the mayor’s office of planning the action in secret, in conjunction with the federal Agriculture Department and the Port Authority.

The Port Authority brushed off the protest, insisting that the culling was necessary to prevent bird strikes — and adding a rhyme for good measure. “Our responsibility is to think about safety for people before peace for geese,” a Port Authority spokesman, Stephen Sigmund, said.