A Sad Day for Inwood Hill Park: Geese Seized by USDA for Slaughter With Complicity of the Mayor (And Why This is Wrong)

Updated 5:35 p.m.

Canada Geese at Prospect Park last year, since killed

How long will Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), the NYC Parks Department, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture), the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) and the Port Authority (which controls NYC air space) be able to put up a pretense that killing Canada Geese that reside in New York City parks is making our airspace safer? This pretense is giving them license to massacre them for the third year in a row.

When will the media start doing its own research and not just repeat back information pro forma from the Mayor and city agency press releases?

800-900 Canada Geese are scheduled to be killed throughout NYC parks in the coming weeks ; this is on top of the 1600 killed last year and 1200 in 2009. (Prospect Park’s geese, close to 400 killed last year, have been given a reprieve.)

Have they actually looked at any of the research? Animal Welfare Institute analyzed the Wildlife Strikes Database and statistics state that “approximately .013 percent of all take offs and landings struck wildlife. The government claims that only one in five (20 percent) are reported. Yet, assuming this is accurate, even if 100 percent of all strikes were reported, this would still mean that less than .068 percent of all aircraft operations struck wildlife.”

In addition, according to statistics, 45 % of all fatal accidents are due to pilot error. Comforting, eh? There is no category on this database for wildlife strikes. There is “other” which is less than 1%.

It seems it’s a lot harder to address human error and takes a lot more guts to speak out on that than it is to kill some innocent geese trying to go about living their lives.

A report on what happened in Inwood from Suzanne who lives there and wrote this last night:

Dear Inwood friends:

I was out on the peninsula this morning when a convoy of trucks pulled up carrying canoes and plastic crates.  It was the people from the Department of Agriculture who had come to capture and kill all of our geese.  There were 30 who had made their home here in our park, including the babies.

There were about a dozen geese in the barbecue area and I started to move in their direction to scare them off to try to save them when one of the men told me that if I interfered with the capture, he would have me arrested If I hadn’t had the dogs with me, I would have accepted that challenge.  It would have been worth it to save a few of the geese.  But realized that if they took me to jail, they would put Bodhi and Bindu in the pound, so I had to leave as they requested.  If my son had been here to take the dogs, I would have accepted the challenge just to publicize this barbarity.  (He’s still in Paris.)

I came back about 15 minutes later with my camera, after calling 311 to register my horror with Bloomberg’s office and the Parks Department, but they had already left with all the geese.  I also contacted NY1 tv (desk@ny1news.com.)  All of the geese were gone, except for two in the far distance.

There is an article in today’s Metro New York about the rounding up and slaughtering of city geese. Check it out at Metro.

If everyone called or emailed to complain about this, perhaps it would make a difference.  It’s too late to save them this year, but this is the third year of this policy and maybe we could prevent a repeat of this next year.  Let’s do everything we can to stop this cruelty. Please call the Mayor (#212/788-3000), Parks Department and email NY1 at the email address above.  Thanks.

A very heart broken Suzanne, Bodhi and Bindu

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UPDATE: Mayor’s office does not like getting calls and 311 is discouraging people from calling and unclear if they are taking complaints at 311 unless you ask for a supervisor. You can fax Mayor’s office at #212/312-0700.

There will be a protest outside Mayor Bloomberg’s mansion with animal and wildlife advocates and concerned New Yorkers organized by Friends of Animals:

When: Thursday, June 30, 2011, 6pm-8pm
Where: Mayor Bloomberg’s Townhouse: 17 East 79th Street, between Madison Avenue and Fifth Avenue

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Previous WSP Blog post: The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese

The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese, Pt I

Prospect Park Geese in Prospect Park Lake -- No Longer

Last Thursday, July 8th, 400 Resident Geese of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park were rounded up and killed in the middle of the night under the dubious notion that this will make air travel in the New York City metropolitan area safe. Mitchel Cohen of the No Spray Coalition, a group which works to fight against and educate about toxic pesticide spraying by the City of New York, wrote the following letter to Susan Elbin of the New York City Audobon. Ms. Elbin is quoted in the New York Times story which appeared July 12th and answered the question of the disappearance of the geese, as park-goers noted them suddenly gone over the weekend with no notice. Ms. Elbin later responded that the NYC Aubobon position was “incorrectly characterized” in the story – nonetheless, the points in Mr. Cohen’s letter, posted below, are worth noting.

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July 13th, 2010

Dear Ms. Elbin,

Today’s NY Times quotes you as supporting the federal government’s (USDA’s) invasion of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park last Thursday to round up, bind, and murder (gassing) of 400 wonderful Canadian geese who were resident geese in our park.

Susan Elbin, conservation director at New York City Audubon, was cautiously supportive of the mass euthanizing. “There are ways to manage birds nonlethally,” Ms. Elbin said. “But if you’re trying to manage a population level, sometimes those hard decisions need to be made.”

It is beyond comprehension that you, speaking on behalf of the NYC Audubon society, would rationalize this horror. I am flabbergasted that you did not point out to the NY Times that:

the Prospect Park geese — and in fact most of the geese that they have been rounding up and killing — were “resident geese” who lived in the Park and nearby Greenwood Cemetery year round;

after Flight 1549 came down in January 2009, the Smithsonian Institute issued a report stating that the plane collided with a flock of MIGRATORY geese, distinct from resident geese;

Killing resident geese does nothing to heighten air safety; it is a ruse enabling the Bloomberg administration, the NYC Parks Department, and the USDA to make it look like they’re doing something when what they’re doing is ineffective and cruel;

In other countries, they track birds’ migratory patterns — which are fairly consistent and can be noted by radar — and change airline flight routes accordingly so that they don’t hit birds. But the exigencies in the making of corporate profits here make it too inconvenient and costly for the giant airlines companies and US officials to change the flight patterns of their airplanes. It’s much easier and financially profitable to get the government to go in and pretend they’re doing something — even if what they’re doing is in actuality totally irrelevant to protecting public safety.

– The geese in Prospect Park were a joy to behold. Children loved feeding them; they befriended them, and helped those who were injured. These geese — our friends! — became the gateway through which children (and adults) learned to care about nature. And now the government has killed them, unnecessarily. Tell that to the kids, that the government has murdered their friends. And tell them that the NYC Audubon supports such cruelty.

– While the Bloomberg administration tries to wash its hands of any responsibility, the NYC Parks Department “signed permission for the removal of the birds” instead of opposing it and alerting the public, thus setting this whole chain of events into motion;

– The wildlife biologists and technicians who “descended on the park Thursday morning and herded the birds into a fenced area,” and who were “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,” are criminals who should have their licenses removed every bit as much as medical professionals who “assist” in torture in Guantanamo are acting in violation of their oaths and purpose.

Shame on the NYC Audubon for not protecting such species as resident geese. The Audubon Society has a certain amount of credibility on these issues and should be far more critical of government decisions that are harming natural life.

Mitchel Cohen, on behalf of the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party, and
Coordinator, No Spray Coalition (against toxic pesticides)

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NYC Audobon’s Susan Elbin then responded, excerpted below, stating that the Times “incorrectly characterized” the organization’s position:

NYC Audubon believes that lethal control should be the last resort after all other methods have been pursued. We have repeatedly maintained that New York City has not taken appropriate measures to reduce goose habitat, and that without such measures populations will quickly rebound to current levels.

NYC Audubon also takes issue with the target populations called for by the Department of Agriculture, a reduction of 80% of the population in the city, as we believe that it is not supported by sound science, and that the risk to aviation safety will not be significantly reduced by this approach. The recent cull at Prospect Park represented nearly 100% of the birds; that is managing a population into extinction. NYC Audubon strongly disagrees with that decision.

The full statement can be found on their web site here.

NYC Audobon does have some suggestions to prevent this in the future – of course it is too late for the 400 wonderful Prospect Park geese!

What You Can Do to Help

If you share NYC Audubon’s opinion that the City should develop a more scientifically sound plan for managing Canada geese, please make your voice heard! You can help us reach our goal of having 1,000 people register formal complaints with the City. All you have to do is call 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK from outside of NYC) and register a complaint. There are several important things to remember when phoning 311 with your complaint:

* When registering a complaint, its important to say that you would like to “register an opinion with the Mayor.”

* It’s possible that 311 operators will attempt to categorize your complaint. The appropriate category for this type of issue is “Environment.”

* It’s possible that 311 operators will ask you about the date and time of the incident (WSP Blog note: July 8th).

* Please e-mail us your tracking number so we can follow up on it later. Emails can be sent to: info@nycaudubon.org

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Part II: Why did New York City approve a massacre of 400 geese in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park?