The geese of Prospect Park will be safe from future federal massacres under a plan that calls for destroying their eggs, bringing in bird-chasing dogs, designing new landscapes to be less bird friendly, and, most shockingly, barring park-goers from feeding waterfowl ever again.
Prospect Park Administrator Tupper Thomas announced the broad wildlife management proposal on Wednesday night at the Picnic House — though she spent much of the night under attack by an angry crowd of park lovers for not preventing July’s middle-of-the-night goose slaughter, even though she knew about it in advance.
But officials on the park’s Wildlife Management Advisory Committee answered the charge by saying that their goal was to avoid another federal massacre.
“The fact is, if we do nothing [federal agents] are going to come back,” said Rachel Goodman, a spokesman for Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).
A population-reduction strategy will balance the interests of nature lovers, while warding off the federal authorities who slaughter geese in the name of airline safety, Thomas said.
“We’re trying to solve the problem the only way we can: make it so geese aren’t nesting in huge numbers in the park,” said Thomas.
But critics pointed out one central problem: no one on the committee knows what the “magic number” is to prevent another goose massacre. Despite the July killing of all 250-plus geese in the park, the population of the birds has rebounded to 166 at last count — a number that worries goose fans.
“Give me numbers! How many geese should be in the park? Five, 150?” asked Anne-Katrin Titze, an outspoken advocate of the geese.
The plan to save the ubiquitous waterfowl breaks down as follows:
• Goose eggs would be destroyed in a process called “egg oiling.” A spokesman for the park, Eugene Patron, said this would likely begin this spring.
• Border collies would be brought into the park before the goose-mating season to discourage large numbers of birds from nesting.
• Prospect Park would seek to make the entire park a “no-feed zone” to encourage the birds to fly elsewhere. Such a plan would bar park-goers from feeding the ducks” — a rite of passage for kids that goes back to the park’s construction, and, perhaps, the earliest days of humanity itself.
• New projects — like the Lakeside Center in the southeastern portion of the park — and other renovations will be less hospitable to geese, which prefer open areas with access to a shoreline. Instead, new landscapes would feature more shrubs and tall grasses near the lake.
Despite the anger at Thomas, some animal advocates hailed the plan as a progressive step in the right direction.
“[This could be] a pilot program that we can do citywide,” said Patrick Kwan, the New York State director of the Humane Society of the United States. “There are definitely folks that think we should just leave the geese alone — I wish we could do that, but when they are slaughtering thousands of geese our obligation is to save as many of them as possible.”
Such talk did little to Thomas critics, who for the first time were able to direct their anger directly at the park administrator, who will retire in January.
“I’m disappointed in you! You should have denounced what happened!” said Rina Deych, echoing the criticism of many in the audience of around 50 people.
“The anger is so fresh,” said Yolanda Gerritsen. “You start talking about it and it’s like it happened yesterday.”
But Thomas, who is retiring in January, pleaded with the crowd that she was a city employee, and it was not her place to oppose a plan orchestrated by Mayor Bloomberg, New York State, and the federal Department of Agriculture.
“I would not [speak out],” said Thomas. “I’ve been a city employee for 40 years.”
She later added, “This isn’t about me! Other people made this decision within the city!”