For the Birds

Prospect Park Survivors

All that remained were clumps of feathers and plastic zip ties dispersed by the lake where they once resided in Prospect Park. They were rounded up in the middle of the night on July 8. Their feet were bound by plastic zip ties so they wouldn’t run away. The kill was planned around their molting season, so they wouldn’t be able to fly away either. The USDA was under contract with the City of New York and the Port Authority to perform their second annual geese kill around the NYC airports.

Last year, it was a response to Captain Sully’s plane landing in the Hudson.  Canada Geese within a five mile radius from JFK and LaGuardia airports were targeted.  Mayor Bloomberg  referred to it as “letting them go to sleep with nice dreams.”  Protesters felt otherwise.    Matt Damon  in his cameo appearance as a pilot on 30 Rock  remarked on the subject:

You know what a great pilot would have done? Not hit the birds.

I’m not sure if Captain Sully himself approves of the tactics that have been used and whether in the long run they will improve flight safety.

Last month, the Washington Post, reported on robotic eagles  that have been used in airports in South America to chase away birds in the flight path.  Creative non-lethal solutions can be explored.

But unfortunately lethal action continued, and this year, the radius was increased to 7 miles. Approximately 400 resident geese in Prospect Park were included in the extermination.   The NYT times reported that the geese were crated and brought to a nearby building and gassed to death.  Their bodies would be double bagged in plastic and sent to a landfill.

These lethal measures were conducted without much public notice or input.  But the public is weighing in now.

The big question is was this necessary?  Former Parks Commissioner, Henry J. Stern is starting his own inquiry into the matter.

One discrepancy that has arisen is the exact distance Prospect Park is from the airports.  By some estimates it is closer to 10 miles rather than between six and seven as was reported.   But killing of geese within any proximity of the airports  is also in question.

The birds that were struck by Captain Sully’s plane were migratory birds, not the resident birds targeted in these raids.

Some of the birds fly within a few miles of JFK,  but are protected in  Gateway National Park.  This  federal park refused to allow birds to be killed on their property and questioned the necessity and the premise of this mass extermination.

Our mission is to protect and preserve wildlife — that’s a law — and it isn’t a given that the removal of the geese is necessary to protect the flying public,” said Dave Avrin, the official at the Park Service’s Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

A lack of public transparency in the decision making is frustrating to many New Yorkers.  The Washington Square Park blog written by Cathryn Swan raises additional questions:

The New York Times reported that the City’s Parks Department “signed permission for the removal of the birds” and U.S. Department of Agriculture spokesperson Carol Bannerman told the Associated Press in late June, “We can only go onto properties where we have permission.” So who gave permission and how did they arrive at that decision?

Vigil in Prospect Park

Vigil in Prospect Park

Tonight a a crowd of compassionate and concerned residents gathered by the gazebo on the lake in Prospect Park and held a vigil for these lives that were so easily discarded without consideration.

It was my first trip back to the lake since the killing and I was surprised by how quiet it was.  I did spot about 10 geese remaining, who managed to evade the fate of their peers.  Many people have been wondering if any of the ducks were rounded up in the process too.  I had my eye out for a special duck we rescued two years ago, and hope he didn’t get accidentally caught in this round up.

The organizers of this vigil included Chio Flores and Mary Beth Purdy-Artz who started the Facebook Group, For the Love of the Geese in Prospect Park.

Both shared personal and heartwarming stories of their connection to these amazing creatures.  Mary Beth included facts about how geese live and take care of each other and how much we can learn from them.

Patrick Kwan from HSUS also spoke about his disappointment that the City continued to pursue these methods knowing there are alternatives, and how we need to push this administration into showing humane leadership.

Senator Eric Adams and Council Member Brad Lander also expressed their outrage and concern that this happened.  They want to investigate further the decision making process that led to these tragic events.  Senator Adams talked about converting our “pain into purpose,” and noted that this is not how government should be operating– snatching these birds in the middle of the night.

Wayne Johnson from Win Animal Rights also spoke about the history of Canada Geese and their protections under the Migratory Bird treaty act.  He noted the method used to kill them is the same as what was done in Auschwitz.

In terms of next steps,  we were told to call 3-1-1  and file a complaint because “a crime was committed,” and be sure to get a complaint number.  The elected officials pledged to their part in investigating this further and welcomed questions, information, and comments to be emailed directly to them.

This geese kill has really shaken up the Prospect Park community.  The park is one of the few places that children get to see and appreciate wildlife.  How do we explain to them what happened?   How do we show them that violence is not an acceptable answer?

While walking out of the park tonight with other concerned parkgoers, we wondered what the ducks and the swans were feeling, with the geese noticeably gone.  A woman who lived in the  neighborhood for 16 years pointed to a swan and said,  “I think that swan is in mourning.”  This week, he hasn’t been the same.


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~ by sangamithra on July 17, 2010.

One Response to “For the Birds”

  1. […] a flock of geese in V formation landed near the water.   The geese had returned to Prospect Park despite last year’s culling, when 368 birds were rounded up in the middle of the night and gassed to […]

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