NEW YORK—New Yorkers rallied in front of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s Midtown office Tuesday to protest the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “removal and slaughter” of 751 molting Canada geese from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge in Queens.
The geese were rounded up by USDA agents last week to reduce bird strikes on flights entering and leaving JFK and LaGuardia airports.
Gillibrand wrote to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last month, asking him to issue permits for the removal of the Canada geese because she said they posed a public safety risk to air travelers.
The USDA then used a combination of “lethal and nonlethal methods” to remove the Canada geese from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Monday, July 9, according to a statement from Gillibrand’s office.
“We could not afford to sit back and wait for a catastrophe to occur before cutting through bureaucratic red tape between federal agencies,” Gillibrand said in a release.
The protesters at Gillibrand’s office Tuesday argued that although the Canada geese posed bird-strike threats, Gillibrand’s actions were unprecedented and irresponsible.
Founder and Director of GooseWatch NYC David Karopkin said Gillibrand had “taken responsibility for the unprecedented lethal removal of animals at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge—Canada geese, which harmed no one and brought pleasure to many—defying the very essence of a wildlife refuge.”
It’s also highly possible, according to Friends of Animals NY Director Edita Birnkrant, more geese will just fly in to replace the removed Canada geese, which were molting and could not fly at the time of removal.
Birnkrant said that one way to keep geese away would be to let the grass grow a little longer in the areas surrounding the airport. She said geese are attracted to short, mowed lawns.
“Killing birds drawn to a refuge while attracting birds to use the grounds around airports won’t make plane travel safer,” Birnkrant said.
“Environmentalists know the golden rule of ecosystems: if one species is removed, another species will take over,” said ecologist Ida Sanoff, in a GooseWatch NYC release. Sandoff said the species that moves in after the geese are gone could be even more problematic.Roughly 700 of the geese were set to be euthanized. A USDA spokeswoman told CBS News that the captured geese would be slaughtered upstate, and the meat would be donated to food pantries.
The cull comes after bird strikes caused disruptions on two commercial flights recently. In mid-April a flight bound for Los Angeles had to make an emergency landing at JFK after hitting a bird. Another flight, later in April, had to return to an airport in Westchester County after hitting two geese just after takeoff.
The city authorized geese culls after the US Airways flight out of LaGuardia had to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River in 2009. The plane had struck a flock of Canada geese just after takeoff.
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