The inhumane, ineffective and costly “catch and kill” program currently underway in Prospect Park is not only the wrong way to address the goose population, but also unsupported by science.
Scientists at the Smithsonian Institute have examined feather remains from a recent bird strike against an airplane and determined that the Canada geese involved were from a migrating population, not the local resident populations targeted by these hastily implemented roundups. This is a crucial distinction as each bird population has distinct flight patterns, coverage and other behavioral differences that need to be considered — not the least of which is that migratory geese require more elaborate techniques to monitor and control.
Studies have shown that the answer to improving airport safety lies not in repeated removal of wildlife. A killing program merely opens up habitat for other geese to fill, and might actually perpetuate the problem as “new” birds continue to fly into the area. Rather, the answer is to go directly to the source — i.e. to airports and surrounding areas and render them undesirable habitats for birds to nest, reproduce, seek forage and refuge. Egg addling and contraceptive baits can also help.
Many of the geese now being killed would never have been hatched if the city had adopted The Humane Society of the United States’ recommendations in 2009 to implement a comprehensive and humane program that included, among other steps, making goose eggs unviable. Communities across the country have had tremendous success with such programs — treating eggs so they don’t hatch, modifying habitats so they don’t attract geese, and using trained dogs to make geese fly elsewhere. A comprehensive, transparent and publicly supported management plan which includes these components is sorely needed now when public awareness is high.
Patrick Kwan is New York state director for The Humane Society of the United States.