It’s open season on Canada geese, if Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has her way.
Today, the day after a plane in Westchester County had to make an emergency landing after two geese struck its windshield, Gillibrand introduced legislation that she vows will “cut the bureaucratic red tape” and allow “for the swift removal of Canada geese” around the city’s airports.
In the past, geese have been removed by being rounded up, stuffed into crates and gassed to death by agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
For the past two years now, the USDA has culled geese within a seven-mile radius of John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports. Under a plan supported by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, USDA agents killed 1,509 wild geese in parks throughout New York City and 167 more in Long Island in 2010. Last year, 575 geese were killed.
But they’ve been unable to get into one area that is the main home of the birds: The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, a 9,000-acre estuary and bird sanctuary that surrounds JFK’s runways.
The refuge is maintained by the National Park Service, and the federal government has been resistant to allowing USDA agents in there until it can complete an environmental impact study.
Gillibrand’s proposed legislation would not only allow agents into the preserve, but it would also require them to kill the birds during their June and July molting season.
“That’s when their new flight feathers are coming in and they can’t fly,” said Edita Birnkrant, the New York Director of Friends of Animals. “They get them when they’re flightless. They pen them and they can’t fly away.”
Adults and goslings alike killed
Geese are nesting right now, said Birnkrant, so it’s both adult geese and goslings that will be killed under Gillibrand’s plan.
Birnkrant called Gillibrand’s suggestion to kill more birds “ a kneejerk reaction that won’t work.”
“We can’t get rid of every bird in the city and deciding to slaughter them is counterproductive,” she said. “Wildlife repopulates itself. Even if they do kill the geese, more will come back to these areas because it’s an attractive place to live.”
Other options to solve the geese problem
Tuesday night’s incident at Westchester County Airport is the second time geese hit a plane in the New York metro area in the past week. Last Thursday, a Delta jet hit geese when it took off from JFK. In that incident, the cabin filled with smoke, but the plane made a safe emergency landing.
There are an estimated 25,000 geese in New York City. Other than killing them what can be done?
Birnkrant proposes using bird radar technology, which she said the Air Force uses. She said it detects flocks of birds, and pilots either delay take-off or maneuver around the birds. She also suggested modifying the birds’ natural habitat in Jamaica Bay Refuge, such as planting dense grass and shrubs and replacing the Kentucky bluegrass that grows there. That grass, she said, “is like candy to the geese.”