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Queens Chronicle

Feds remove geese from Jamaica Bay

Plan had environmentalist support but some worry about other birds

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Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2012 10:30 am | Updated: 5:12 am, Wed Dec 24, 2014.

On Monday morning, there were more than 1,500 Canada geese living around Jamaica Bay. By the end of the next day, that number had been cut by about half.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture moved forward with a plan to eliminate the population of Canada geese at the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, which many fear are a threat to airplanes flying into and out of nearby JFK Airport.

USDA agents captured a total of 751 geese on Monday and Tuesday between sunrise and noon near the Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge on the north end of Broad Channel. The agency trapped the geese this week because they were rendered “flightless” due to molting of their feathers, which normally occurs in June and July. Without their ability to fly, the geese are easier to round up. Also, all migrating Canada geese are far north by midsummer. They were then moved to a poultry processing plant in Dutchess County where they were euthanized and their meat sent to soup kitchens and food pantries, according to Carol Bannerman, spokeswomen for the USDA’s Wildlife Service and Animal Care office. The process in which the geese are captured and euthanized is termed “culling.”

The move comes after Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) pushed U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, whose agency manages the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, to move forward with removal of the geese after the USDA released its environmental impact study at the beginning of the month.

“We could not afford to sit back and wait for a catastrophe to occur before cutting through bureaucratic red tape between federal agencies,”said Gillibrand. “We are finally taking action to help reduce bird strikes and save lives. I thank Secretary Salazar for his leadership in moving this process forward.”

One thousand of the roughly 1,500 Canada geese that had been living in the refuge and the area surrounding it were targeted for removal by the USDA. Several hundred geese can be seen often on landfill parks along the Brooklyn shoreline, directly below a commonly used flight path for jets landing at JFK. The agency has already culled over 200 Canada geese in the last three years. Don Riepe, northeast chapter president for the American Littoral Society, said those geese are not migratory and were introduced to the bay in the latter half of the last century by fish and gaming agencies. The geese have become “overabundant” around the bay according to the National Park Service and the presence of mowed lawns around Gateway National Recreation Area and on properties in Howard Beach, the Rockaways and Brooklyn have provided geese with a source of food all year round.

“Even though they’re native, they’re kind of misplaced,” Riepe said, adding that migrating geese stop at the refuge in spring and fall, but the 1,500 or so geese that had been living around Jamaica Bay are not migratory and spent most of the time at the wildlife refuge. Besides the threat to planes, the Canada geese also disrupt the ecosystem at the bay, taking away some food supply for smaller birds native to the area. The NPS also warned that resident Canada geese damage salt marshes in Jamaica Bay, many of which were destroyed by pollution and are in the process of being repaired.

Riepe said the removal of the geese is something he and other environmentalists reluctantly support.

“We don’t like it, but we do agree with going along to reduce the numbers,” he said.

It was a flock of Canada geese that brought down US Airways Flight 1549 in January 2009. The plane took off from LaGuardia Airport and was forced to ditch in the Hudson River after both engines failed due to a bird strike. A Delta Airlines jet lost an engine in April taking off from JFK, forcing an emergency landing, after a bird strike. Nobody was hurt in either incident. The type of bird that crippled the Delta jet is not certain, but Riepe said it was not a Canada goose, which leaves him worried about whether or not other birds, especially those native to the bay that can pose a threat to jets may be targeted next.

“What we’re concerned about is the future,” Riepe said. “As the airport continues to expand and more flights come in to JFK, will they move on to other species?”

Birds like the herring gull, and other gull species, the cormorant and the mute swan all call Jamaica Bay home, though the latter is not native to the area and is controlled by the National Park Service. Any of them may be capable of crippling an airplane. Riepe said he wants the federal government to mitigate the bird culling by providing some more funding for the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge or for other projects like marsh restoration. The USDA did not fund the removal of the Canada geese. The money for the project came from the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

Despite the removal of the geese, Riepe warned the threat to planes continues because JFK Airport is located along a popular route used by migrating birds. In fact, it is believed to have been migratory Canada geese, not resident ones, that collided with Flight 1549 in 2009.

“Since you have an airport located along a coastal migratory flyway, you’re always going to have an issue,” he said.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • killinggeesedoesnotprotectplanes posted at 2:37 pm on Fri, Jul 13, 2012.

    killinggeesedoesnotprotectplanes Posts: 16

    As far back as 2003, the International Bird Strike Committee was very unimpressesd with the FAA and bird strike reporting, or lack of it, in the USA. This is an excellent document everyone should read paying special attention to #4 which describes the very poor bird strike reporting on the Bird Strike Data Base, which was and is maintained by the USDA WS.

    #11 describes the FAA as the 'OLD SCHOOL SAFETY CULTURE'. Very accurate.

    They never collected enough information about bird strikes to develop rational effective wildlife management plans - as is evident in this insane rampaging and killing of canada geese.

    You know what - they don't kill birds away from an airport in Canada where mandatory bird strike reporting has been in place for years - it's crazy and ineffective. Dead geese will be replaced with other birds.

  • killinggeesedoesnotprotectplanes posted at 12:36 pm on Fri, Jul 13, 2012.

    killinggeesedoesnotprotectplanes Posts: 16

    "It was a flock of Canada geese that brought down US Airways Flight 1549 in January 2009. The plane took off from LaGuardia Airport and was forced to ditch in the Hudson River after both engines failed due to a bird strike.

    1) The Smithsonian Institute Feather Analysis Laboratory confirmed those geese were migratory geese from Labrador, Canada.

    2) Flight 1549 was an Airbus A320. It's engines did NOT MEET CURRENT BIRD INGESTION STANDARDS. The new standards required an engine to be able to remain functional after ingesting a bird twice the weight that the old standard did. Therefore it is entirely reasonable to think had the engines met current standards Flight 1549 would have been able to make it to an airport to land rather than the Hudson River.

    "In 2007, the FAA adopted new regulations regarding bird strikes,and the new rules increased the size of the birds used in the core tests to 5½ pounds. However, engines certificated prior to 2007 were NOT obliged to meet the new requirements."


    3) In 2004, the FAA had issued warnings about double engine stall on Airbus A320's after two crashes in Europe due to double engine stall.

    “An emergency safety directive has been issued to airlines using twin-engine Airbus A320s after both engines on one stalled over the Mediterranean, just 18 days after an Air New Zealand A320 crashed killing all seven on board………. American authorities warned such stalling problems could prevent continued safe flight or landing.”


  • killinggeesedoesnotprotectplanes posted at 12:09 pm on Fri, Jul 13, 2012.

    killinggeesedoesnotprotectplanes Posts: 16

    “We could not afford to sit back and wait for a catastrophe to occur before cutting through bureaucratic red tape between federal agencies,”said Gillibrand. “We are finally taking action to help reduce bird strikes and save lives."

    ....Maybe Ms. Senator doesn't read much. The "USDA Summary: New York City Canada GooseRemovals in 2011" states:

    "An analysis of data from the FAA Wildlife StrikeDatabase, estimated that 81% of 1,238 reported Canada goose strikes nationwide from 1990 – 2009 were from resident non-migrating geese"

    ....if you can get through the 'gafflegab' - this tells you there were 1,238 goose strikes in the USA from 1990 to 2009.

    That works out to 1.3 goose strikes per state per year - and 81% of those were resident geese.

    So from 1990 to 2009 there was part of a resident goose strike per state per year.


    Yes.....I can really see how killing thousands of innocent resident Canada geese in NYC is going to cut the number of bird strikes - 1.3 goose strikes per state per year and only 81% of that were resident geese.

    It is obvious with 1.3 goose strikes per year in NY state that NYC's resident geese understand something about airports and planes. By killing the birds that knew the airspace I believe they have greatlly increased the risk of a catastrophic strike as they have now created a vacuum for birds unfamiliar with the airspace to fill. I hope they have a lot of liability coverage.

  • killinggeesedoesnotprotectplanes posted at 12:04 pm on Fri, Jul 13, 2012.

    killinggeesedoesnotprotectplanes Posts: 16

    It will be interesting to find out exactly why these geese were killed and what permit was given and why.

    Are we supposed to believe the wildlife brains at Jamaica Bay et al didn't know Canada geese had babies and that it might be wise to begin controlling their population years ago with a non violent method such as egg addling?


    The Okanagan Valley Goose Management program is working on its SIXTH YEAR OF EGG ADDLING TO CONTROL THE NUMBER OF CANADA GEESE in public spaces.

    “LAST YEAR, field crews located and ADDLED 1308 EGGS FROM 274 nests between Vernon and Osoyoos...The multi-year project aims to reduce the population of resident Canada geese to a more manageable level, and reduce large concentrations of geese in heavily used public areas.


    The resident goose population in the Atlantic Flyway is totally due to federal and state wildlife agencies efforts. They have been counting the geese in the Atlantic Flyway every year to establish hunting seasons and bag limits. They had a pretty good idea of the number of geese there were. http://www.mdwfa.org/flyway/CAGO_RPManagementPlan.pdf

    It is unbelievable they did not know the population of Canada geese and that they did not know about egg addling, therefore their excuse that suddenly these geese were causing such environmental damage they had to be killed right now is TOTALLY UNBELIEVABLE.

    managing manage their population years ago and that they didn't know about egg addling?

  • PattyA posted at 7:38 am on Fri, Jul 13, 2012.

    PattyA Posts: 1

    It seems the rationalizations for "culling" geese change according to the day, the location and the weather.

    One day the excuse is "airline safety." The next day, it is "poop on golf shoes" or suppoesly striving to achieve "ecological balance."

    Did anyone provide proof of any of the claims?

    Geese are actually very peaceful birds who generally attract other waterfowl as opposed to chasing other birds out or eating their food.

    But, urban environments can be very challenging and intimidating for more sensitive species of birds to adapt to and survive.

    But, hey if we can blame the disappearance of other bird species on the more adaptable and hardy Canada geese, then by all means, do so! The geese are such easy scapegoats for almost everything gone wrong in human created environment and they neither have votes nor lawyers to defend them.

    Nevertheless, the use of different excuses for our now seemingly endless "war" on Canada geese reminds one of certain criminals and their slick lawyers who come up with differnt excuses for murder. -- Everything from perceived self-defense to movies, TV shows and even eating Twinkies.

    Or, maybe it is simply, "If the glove don't fit, you have to acquit."

    Well, "the glove doesn't fit here."

    The different and constantly changing rationalizations and excuses for goose carnage suggest difficulty in keeping the lies straight and actually remembering them.

  • PattyA posted at 7:13 am on Fri, Jul 13, 2012.

    PattyA Posts: 1

    It appears that when journalists fail to do proper research and ask questions (such as "How were the geese killed?) they resort to using euphemisms such as the geese were "euthanized."

    This conjures up images of a vet stroking a dying and beloved pet before injecting lethal solution that brings quick and merciful ending to suffering.

    But, that is hardly the case with the 751 geese.

    The geese were not suffering and they were not "mercifully put to sleep" as represented by the "good death" definition of "euthanasia."

    In fact, neither the writer of this article nor apparenly top personnel at the USDA know HOW the geese died (or are saying),

    Were they gassed? Were they slaughtered?

    Different media reports state different things. And when reporters don't know and apparently don't investigate, they fall back on the term, "euthanasia" which makes everyone feel good, but in fact, renders the word absolutely meaningless.

    Since the misapplication of this term to refer to geese rounded up, stuffed 4 to 5 in crates and transported long distance from NYC in summer heat to be killed by non-vet personnel lacks credibility, we have to surmise that the rest of this article (such as the different excuses for the massacre) lacks truth and credibility and thus represents the author mostly reporting canned press releases by those reponsible for this carnage as "news."

    This week has been a sad one for the 751 geese who sought safety at a wildlife refuge through the summer molt, but instead encountered cruelty and death.

    But, it is even a sadder one for the principles of "accuracy in media" and investigative journalism.

    Edward R, Murrow must be rolling in his grave.