Wing slip! Goose population way down in Prospect Park

A gooseless city? Feds reveal that they can kill birds pretty much anywhere
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Goose census takers are finishing up the federal government’s official count of waterfowl in Brooklyn — but the would-be bird exterminators aren’t likely to fire up their gas chambers again this year because the population of local geese has already plummeted.

This week, only 23 geese were spotted in Prospect Park — where more than 300 Canada geese were slaughtered by the federal government in the name of aviation security last July.

The decreased population is a result of a multi-faceted and non-lethal approach to animal control after the outcry over last year’s massacre. Park biologists have covered eggs in corn oil to prevent their development, brought in dogs to chase geese away, and enforced a strict “no feeding” policy.

As a result, Park officials say that no goslings have been born this season, and many geese have moved on.

Of course, the goose population was greatly reduced by the slaughter itself.

As such, it’s been nearly a silent spring in Prospect Park.

“The park is almost devoid of geese,” said wildlife advocate Mary Beth Artz. “I don’t know what they plan to count.”

The goose count is being conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which began killing geese in New York in 2009, though only within a five-mile radius of both LaGuardia and JFK airports. That killing field was expanded last year to seven miles — into Prospect Park — without public discussion. The result was the massacre of hundreds of geese last July.

Prospect Park officials have called in Goose Busters to scare off geese, Mike Mallon and his Border Collie Cleo Patrick are on the case.
Photo by Tom Callan

In the weeks before that slaughter, feds took the same goose census that they are conducting now, counting geese at 63 city properties then evaluating factors such as distance to airports and waterfowl populations to determine if they should be “removed,” said USDA spokeswoman Carol Bannerman. Geese were then captured at 19 of those locations.

Violent measures may not be needed this year because of the success of humane efforts to keep the goose population down. In the passed two months, biologists have combed nearly every inch of Prospect Park, tracking mated pairs of geese back to their nests, where the eggs have been coated with corn oil to suffocate the embryos before development. This prevents goslings from hatching in the weeks before the season in which officials can legally exterminate them.

Along with this “egg addling” technique, the Park has hiring a company called “Goose Busters,” which uses border collies to scare away the squawkers.

Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Ferrell Sklerov said that the results of this year’s survey “will inform the decision-making process” of a steering committee formed in the wake of the so-called “Miracle on the Hudson,” the 2009 US Airways crash that might have been caused after a collision between geese and Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger’s Airbus A320.

The committee is comprised of city, state and national wildlife officials, plus officials from the Port Authority, which manages the city’s airports.

There is no precise “goose count” that would prompt another killing, but higher populations mean a greater threat to aviation, Bannerman said.

And Mayor Bloomberg has shown a zero-tolerance approach to geese. The Brooklyn Paper reported exclusively last year that it was the Department of Environmental Protection, under orders from the mayor, that pushed for the expansion of the kill zone to seven miles from the airports.

Signs like this have apparently helped, too.
Community Newspaper Group / Julie Rosenberg