Birds colliding with an airplane’s engine, known as bird strikes, pose a danger to humans, birds and aircraft at John F. Kennedy Airport. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently proposed the controversial “Bird Hazard Reduction Program: John F. Kennedy International Airport” to reduce the number of collisions.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s plan proposes the killing of six bird species within a five-mile radius of the airport, and one species, Canada geese, within a seven-mile radius. Gillibrand aims to allow the USDA to kill the geese within a five-mile radius.
The birds in danger of being killed are mute swans, double-crested cormorants, blackbirds, crows, rock pigeons and European starlings.
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, part of the Gateway National Recreation Area, is near the airport. Don Riepe, Jamaica Bay Guardian and director of the Northeast chapter of the American Littoral Society, said the issue is a complex one.
“The airport has an effective program in place,” Riepe said. “As long as all this is regulated by the Wildlife Services, we can live with it.”
He added that the proposal is not the only concern of the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. “We’re also concerned that the airport may be considering expanding into the marshes,” he said, “and that, we’re totally against.”
Riepe said the airport is much safer than it was 25 years ago, when landfills were open nearby. He said bird strikes have decreased in number, especially regarding the laughing gull.
Carol Bannerman, USDA Wildlife Services spokeswoman, said the number of resident Canada geese has increased 14-fold across the country, between 1970 and 2010. She added that New York has about as many now as the country did in 1970.
“As long as birds and planes are flying, there’s always a possibility of a wildlife strike,” Bannerman said. “These are ways to reduce the strikes and that’s what we’re trying to work on.”
The agency’s proposal can be seen on the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service website, aphis.usda.gov. It will be open for public comments until Wednesday, June 13.