Activists object to killing of geese in N.J.
Thu Jun 18, 2009 5:02 am (PDT)
Forwarded message - for info, please visit
By Matthew Spolar
Inquirer Staff Writer
June 18, 2009
Around this time each year for about a decade, the U.S. Department
of Agriculture has rounded up Canada geese from parks and airports
across New Jersey, herded them into pens, and euthanized them with
The process has begun again, and it is set to continue through July
as the government fights an overabundance of geese up and down
the East Coast, responding to complaints about waste, property damage,
and aviation safety.
But the program is not without detractors in the animal-rights community.
"What they're doing in New Jersey is totally unnecessary. It's based upon
a lack of understanding of wildlife behavior," said David Feld, director of
GeesePeace, which helps communities remove the birds using "nonlethal"
Efforts to cull geese this year have received more attention than in the
past, especially in New York City. In January, US Airways Flight 1549 had
to execute an emergency landing on the Hudson River after being struck
In response, the city has asked the USDA's Wildlife Services to capture
and kill at least 2,000 geese at city parks and sites within five miles of
airports, angering protesters who gathered outside the Port Authority of
New York and New Jersey on Tuesday.
Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, which helped organize
the protest, called the culling of residential geese in the hope of improving
flight safety a "mean-spirited, inane idea." She pointed to a study by
Smithsonian scientists that concluded the geese that hit Flight 1549
"We recognize that there can be people who don't agree with it," USDA
spokeswoman Carol Bannerman said. "It would be nice if there were
somewhere to take the geese to . . . but in New Jersey, especially, there's
not a place to put them."
The USDA doubled the geese it removed in the state from 1,000 in
2006 to 2,000 in 2008, Bannerman said. This year, 20 locations in nine
counties, including Burlington, Mercer, and Salem, have requested
Officials choose this time of year because geese are molting, or
shedding their feathers, and cannot fly.
A primary alternative touted by Feld is pouring corn oil on goose eggs,
which prevents them from hatching. This process, he argues, is more
effective at stopping the population problem at the source and can
discourage the goose who laid the egg from returning.
Bannerman said Wildlife Services had treated 2,000 eggs in more than
300 nests in New Jersey. She said that despite this and other tactics,
such as discouraging residents from feeding the geese, it was difficult
to make them leave the area, citing research that showed geese moved
an average of only 21/2 miles in two years.
Feld countered that if more emphasis had been placed on non-lethal
methods, the geese would have been gone by now.
"Because they're not doing appropriate management practices, they've
got a program where the only answer is killing them," he said. "It gives
people a false sense of security and gives them justification for
something they wouldn't have to do in the first place."
Though the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a report in 2002 that
set a goal of cutting New Jersey's population of 80,000 Canada geese
in half, Bannerman said the USDA's job was not to reach that quota
but simply to respond to requests from municipalities and landowners.
For this reason, Tori Perry, a senior cruelty caseworker with People
for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said the group had focused on
those requesting the geese removal instead of the government. When
a PETA member hears about a removal request, the organization
calls the landowner to suggest other methods.
"Most people want to be kind, want to be compassionate," Perry said.
"They just need to be educated."
Contact staff writer Matthew Spolar at 856-779-3829 or