Agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed more than 700 Canada geese from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Monday morning, at the prodding of U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand.
In the hours between 7 a.m. and noon, 711 of the birds, including possibly goslings, were rounded up and put into crates, said Carol Bannerman, with the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, a division within the USDA.
They were then drive to a meat processing plant in upstate New York, where the geese will be killed and their meat will be given to food banks upstate, Bannerman told Metro. In the past carbon dioxide has been used to gas the geese to death.
The more than 700 geese rounded up today comes after USDA agents removed 40 geese from a landfill near John F. Kennedy airport two weeks ago, said Bannerman. In total, 751 geese have been removed from area around JFK in the past two weeks.
That leaves only about 750 Canada geese remaining in the federally protected preserve. Before the round-up, there were 1,500 geese in the park, said Gateway National Recreation area spokesman John Warren.
According to Warren, the feds originally called for killing up to 1,000 geese in the park. But molting season ended before that many could be taken, he said.
Bannerman told Metro there will be no more further cullings planned for this summer.
But today's surprise killing shocked and outraged many New Yorkers.
“I was sick to my stomach,” said Brooklynite David Karopkin when he heard of the killings yesterday. Karopkin, 27, runs GooseWatch NYC, which seeks to monitor and record the controversial cullings of geese in the metro area. “New Yorkers have been kept in the dark about what’s going on. These operations are done with no transparency, no public approval -- for the most part we’re told after the fact.”
"It's really a disgrace and a shock that New York City's only wildlife and bird sanctuary has been opened up to a wildlife slaughter for no good reason," Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals, said. "I'm in utter disbelief at the stupidity of some of the people in office."
Gillibrand has been pushing for more than three years to allow agents into the Jamaica Preserve, a 9,000-acre estuary and bird sanctuary that surrounds JFK’s runways. The birds are a hazard to planes taking off from JFK and LaGuardia airports, she and others argue.
Just this past April, a Delta jet hit geese when it took off from JFK. The cabin filled with smoke, but the plane made a safe emergency landing.
Gillibrand specifically wanted the geese culled before the end of their June and July molting phase, when the adult birds and goslings cannot fly and can be easily rounded up.
The USDA first started removing geese from the NYC area in July of 2004. In the five years before that, there were nine bird strikes on planes at LaGuardia, said Carol Bannerman.
In the five years after 2004, to July of 2009, there have been three bird strikes.
The most famous of which is when geese brought down the "Miracle on the Hudson" flight in January of 2009.
But according to Karopkin, the geese that brought down that flight were migrating from Canada, and did not nest in the metro area.
“So even if you killed every animal in New York City you would not have prevented that crash," he said.
A history of cullings
Number of geese removed from around the city:
2009 1,276 geese removed and killed
2010 1,676 geese removed and killed
2011 575 geese removed and killed
2012 751 killed so far this year