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article imageNew York's Canada Goose cull sparks outrage and controversy

By Stephanie Dearing     Jul 13, 2010 in Environment
New York - New York City's burgeoning Canada Geese population was deemed a threat to aviation safety after last year's spectacular 'Miracle on the Hudson.'
Readers will remember the accident now called the Miracle on the Hudson. It was January 2009, and flight 1549 had just departed from New York's LaGuardia Airport when, almost immediately, the plane encountered a flock of Canadian Geese. With several of the birds sucked into the plane's engines, causing their deaths, the plane lost power.
Pilot Sullenburger was celebreated for the feat of landing the disabled plane on the Hudson River, with no loss of human life. After the incident the City of New York announced it would cull 2,000 of the geese.
The first of the 2010 cull took place in New York City's Prospect Park last week. In a quiet move, all the Canadian Geese living at the park, about 400 Geese, were scooped up in one day by officials. The Geese were taken to a building where they were killed with carbon dioxide gas. After being gassed, the birds' bodies were "double-bagged" and taken to the landfill.
Prospect Park neighbourhood residents were shocked to discover their beloved geese were missing, and even more shocked when they learned what had happened. One resident, Anne-Katrin Titze told the New York Times "It’s eerie to see a whole population gone. There’s not one goose on this lake. It looks as though they’ve been Photoshopped out.”
Other residents were upset the public wasn't notified in advance of the cull, which was planned to take advantage of the annual molt when the birds are unable to fly.
Readers of the Brooklyn Paper have called the cull a "massacre" and "genocide." The cull was conducted by the Department of Agriculture, and at least one Brooklyn Paper reader characterized the agency as "an animal terrorism organization."
Carol Bannerman, a spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture told media the cull was needed to counterbalance the growth in the size of the Canada Goose population. The cull will continue in New York for the next week or so.
AP reported the Department of Agriculture was aiming to kill around 1,000 geese this year. Last year the Department of Agriculture took just over 1,200 geese after announcing 2,000 geese would be killed for safety.
The Globe & Mail reported that Canada Geese around New York's John F. Kennedy airport are being left alone.
The species, which were once endangered to the point of near-extinction, have rebounded like mad. The growing population of Canada Geese has prompted Nova Scotia to allow a limited hunt of the species in September in an effort to help trim the population.
The outrage over the goose cull serves to focus a light on the increasing conflict between wildlife and humans as human endeavours increasingly usurp wildlife habitat. After the Miracle on the Hudson, biologist Richard Dolbeer told CNN "It's a fairly common occurrence to have bird strikes, but to have bird strikes that would disable both engines on an aircraft is fortunately a rare event."
Geese are not the only birds that have horrific encounters with airplanes. Starlings, pelicans and other birds have caused air accidents when they have been sucked into the engines of planes. Some of those accidents have caused human fatalities.
It is thought that 20,000 Canadian Geese live in the New York City area year-round, while another 20,000 Canadian Geese migrate through the area every year.
It is not clear why culling only 2,000 Canadian Geese is thought to provide greater aviation safety. Most bird control efforts at airports does not seek to kill the wild birds, but to instead divert them away from the paths of airplanes.
Canadian Geese will mate for life. Their distinctive black and white colours make them easy to identify.
More about Canada geese, New york goose cull, Hudson river, Airplanes, Flight 1549
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