Thursday, July 15, 2010

Canada Goose Cull in Prospect Park

Ever since US Airways Flight 1549 crash-landed in the Hudson River after hitting a flock of geese in 2009, aviation officials and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have sought to reduce and harass New York City's Canada Goose population. Flocks of geese have been chased away from the city's airports, and some resident geese have been culled. Last week, the control effort became very noticeable to residents when all of the 400 Canada Geese in Brooklyn's Prospect Park disappeared overnight.

On Monday, the answer emerged. Wildlife biologists and technicians had descended on the park Thursday morning and herded the birds into a fenced area. The biologists, working with the federal Agriculture Department, then packed the geese two or three to a crate and took them to a nearby building where they were gassed with lethal doses of carbon dioxide, Carol A. Bannerman, a spokeswoman, said.
This was one of the largest culls so far; last summer 1,235 geese were killed. The culls are timed to catch the geese when they have molted their flight feathers and temporarily cannot fly. A summer cull traps mostly resident breeding geese, not the migratory geese that arrive in the fall and depart in the spring.
Most of the geese at the park were probably year-round residents, said Paul D. Curtis, an associate professor of wildlife sciences at Cornell University. Dr. Curtis said there were two types of Canada geese in the region: those that migrate north to nest during the summer and those that stay close to the city. Even to biologists, Dr. Curtis said, they are nearly indistinguishable.

In the early 1900s, Canada geese were nearly extinct. In an effort to rebuild the population, they were brought to New York from the Midwest. In the 1930s, geese were added to be hunted.

Agriculture Department specialists started removing geese this year in mid-June. They expect to complete their schedule of roundups by the end of the week, Ms. Bannerman said.

Elsewhere in the country, nuisance wildlife birds are usually chased away by border collies or firecrackers. But in New York, Ms. Bannerman said, there is no relocation program for the geese, and they must be euthanized. Another method for controlling the birds is coating their eggs with corn oil, to prevent them from hatching.

The carcasses of the Prospect Park geese will be double-bagged and dumped in a landfill. Other states use different methods, like turning the geese into food or animal feed. This year, the Agriculture Department donated 900 pounds of goose breast to food pantries in Pennsylvania.
Many residents are upset about the disappearance of the geese. Some are venting in Corey's thread about the cull on 10,000 Birds. That the cull targets resident geese raises my eyebrows a bit. Forensic tests in the wake of the Flight 1549 incident showed that the geese involved were migratory, most likely from Labrador. Given that knowledge, I wonder whether a cull of resident geese is really necessary. Now there may be good reason for culling resident geese, but it seems wasteful without a direct link to air safety. It also seems wasteful that the dead geese are just being dumped in a landfill.