The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese, Pt I

Prospect Park Geese in Prospect Park Lake -- No Longer

Last Thursday, July 8th, 400 Resident Geese of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park were rounded up and killed in the middle of the night under the dubious notion that this will make air travel in the New York City metropolitan area safe. Mitchel Cohen of the No Spray Coalition, a group which works to fight against and educate about toxic pesticide spraying by the City of New York, wrote the following letter to Susan Elbin of the New York City Audobon. Ms. Elbin is quoted in the New York Times story which appeared July 12th and answered the question of the disappearance of the geese, as park-goers noted them suddenly gone over the weekend with no notice. Ms. Elbin later responded that the NYC Aubobon position was “incorrectly characterized” in the story – nonetheless, the points in Mr. Cohen’s letter, posted below, are worth noting.

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July 13th, 2010

Dear Ms. Elbin,

Today’s NY Times quotes you as supporting the federal government’s (USDA’s) invasion of Brooklyn’s Prospect Park last Thursday to round up, bind, and murder (gassing) of 400 wonderful Canadian geese who were resident geese in our park.

Susan Elbin, conservation director at New York City Audubon, was cautiously supportive of the mass euthanizing. “There are ways to manage birds nonlethally,” Ms. Elbin said. “But if you’re trying to manage a population level, sometimes those hard decisions need to be made.”

It is beyond comprehension that you, speaking on behalf of the NYC Audubon society, would rationalize this horror. I am flabbergasted that you did not point out to the NY Times that:

the Prospect Park geese — and in fact most of the geese that they have been rounding up and killing — were “resident geese” who lived in the Park and nearby Greenwood Cemetery year round;

after Flight 1549 came down in January 2009, the Smithsonian Institute issued a report stating that the plane collided with a flock of MIGRATORY geese, distinct from resident geese;

Killing resident geese does nothing to heighten air safety; it is a ruse enabling the Bloomberg administration, the NYC Parks Department, and the USDA to make it look like they’re doing something when what they’re doing is ineffective and cruel;

In other countries, they track birds’ migratory patterns — which are fairly consistent and can be noted by radar — and change airline flight routes accordingly so that they don’t hit birds. But the exigencies in the making of corporate profits here make it too inconvenient and costly for the giant airlines companies and US officials to change the flight patterns of their airplanes. It’s much easier and financially profitable to get the government to go in and pretend they’re doing something — even if what they’re doing is in actuality totally irrelevant to protecting public safety.

– The geese in Prospect Park were a joy to behold. Children loved feeding them; they befriended them, and helped those who were injured. These geese — our friends! — became the gateway through which children (and adults) learned to care about nature. And now the government has killed them, unnecessarily. Tell that to the kids, that the government has murdered their friends. And tell them that the NYC Audubon supports such cruelty.

– While the Bloomberg administration tries to wash its hands of any responsibility, the NYC Parks Department “signed permission for the removal of the birds” instead of opposing it and alerting the public, thus setting this whole chain of events into motion;

– The wildlife biologists and technicians who “descended on the park Thursday morning and herded the birds into a fenced area,” and who were “working with the federal Agriculture Department, then packed the geese two or three to a crate and took them to a nearby building where they were gassed with lethal doses of carbon dioxide,” are criminals who should have their licenses removed every bit as much as medical professionals who “assist” in torture in Guantanamo are acting in violation of their oaths and purpose.

Shame on the NYC Audubon for not protecting such species as resident geese. The Audubon Society has a certain amount of credibility on these issues and should be far more critical of government decisions that are harming natural life.

Mitchel Cohen, on behalf of the Brooklyn Greens / Green Party, and
Coordinator, No Spray Coalition (against toxic pesticides)

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NYC Audobon’s Susan Elbin then responded, excerpted below, stating that the Times “incorrectly characterized” the organization’s position:

NYC Audubon believes that lethal control should be the last resort after all other methods have been pursued. We have repeatedly maintained that New York City has not taken appropriate measures to reduce goose habitat, and that without such measures populations will quickly rebound to current levels.

NYC Audubon also takes issue with the target populations called for by the Department of Agriculture, a reduction of 80% of the population in the city, as we believe that it is not supported by sound science, and that the risk to aviation safety will not be significantly reduced by this approach. The recent cull at Prospect Park represented nearly 100% of the birds; that is managing a population into extinction. NYC Audubon strongly disagrees with that decision.

The full statement can be found on their web site here.

NYC Audobon does have some suggestions to prevent this in the future – of course it is too late for the 400 wonderful Prospect Park geese!

What You Can Do to Help

If you share NYC Audubon’s opinion that the City should develop a more scientifically sound plan for managing Canada geese, please make your voice heard! You can help us reach our goal of having 1,000 people register formal complaints with the City. All you have to do is call 311 (or 212-NEW-YORK from outside of NYC) and register a complaint. There are several important things to remember when phoning 311 with your complaint:

* When registering a complaint, its important to say that you would like to “register an opinion with the Mayor.”

* It’s possible that 311 operators will attempt to categorize your complaint. The appropriate category for this type of issue is “Environment.”

* It’s possible that 311 operators will ask you about the date and time of the incident (WSP Blog note: July 8th).

* Please e-mail us your tracking number so we can follow up on it later. Emails can be sent to: [email protected]

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Part II: Why did New York City approve a massacre of 400 geese in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park?

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27 thoughts on “The Killing of the Prospect Park Geese, Pt I”

  1. Thank you so much for this. Mr. Cohen’s letter is brilliant and completely accurate.

    That entire families of Canada Geese were rounded up, bound, transported and gassed brings up horrific images from WW2. That it was done in secret, with no documentation or notice to residents only reinforces such diabolical image.

    It is too late to save the 400 birds who fell victim to this outrage and carnage.

    But, it is not too late to save the remaining geese in our other parks a similar fate.

    We need as many people as possible to show up to the vigil tomorrow night at Prospect Park. And we need to calls to keep coming into 311 and all our other govrenmental reps who allowed this to happen under their watch. That includes federal Congresspeople and our two Senators, Gillibrand and Shumer.

    Thank you again for this wonderful piece.

  2. The sick part was it was at night, so no one will see, the public was not informed and it was at night, sounds illegal to me. why not relate them, use some of the money bloomberg used to buy this illegal 3rd term or our increased taxes. F*%$ this whole bloomberg monarchy

  3. i love hunting geese. i say let the season be open year round and they will provide food for myself and my dogs and cats. if it flies it dies. kill a human save a goose, you people are nuts!!!!!!then again your probaly the same douches that want a terrorist mosque built next to ground zero. YOO HOO GET A LIFE

    PETA+ People eating tasty animals.

  4. hey pattie, i love angels. i would never hurt such a religous symbol like an angel but i sure would pop the hell out of some geese. thanks for the new nick name.tch, tch. ps just for you tonight im gonna have some stir fry canada goose with a side order of venison chili. you enjoy your tofu burger. like i said kill a human save the owls.

    ps. always remeber

    P- PEOPLE
    E- EATING
    T-TASTY
    A-ANIMALS!!!!!!!

  5. Brian, I don’t advocate hunting but, if people are hunting for food, an argument could certainly be made. However, the dubious, non-existent “science” behind the killing of the New York City (resident) Canada geese population should give anyone pause.

    If you believe all non-human wildlife & animal beings should be killed just because they can be, well personally, I don’t know what to do with that attitude. But thanks for stopping by!

    Cathryn
    WSP Blog.

  6. i was just putting a little humour in it thats all.i understand where you guys are coming from i really do. im an avid member of alot of wildlife organziations but i do love to hunt (for food) and i do some trophy hunting for taxidermy purposes. i can tell you from spending hundreds of hours annualy on the bays,rivers and streams here on long island that we do have way too many geese on our hands.i agree they have there place in this world just like we do. i dont like that they were gassed any more than any of you do. if the damn people in gongress would allow us to shoot more then 3 per day during hunting season then some of this could be avoided. when there hunted legally like i do they are killed humanely and they are used for food. i eat the breasts and the the remains i grind and make homemade food for my dogs and cats. my wife and i do part time animal rescue for dogs and cats and the extra meat from the geese help us out financially as no one wants to help us feed them. in a all serious note i was being serious but goofin around in the earlier posts and if i offended you my bad it wasnt my intention. as for the geese problems a good start would be to let us harvest more during the hunting season and stop building so much.eventually we will all be on top of each other here in new york!!!!

    ps. just send the geese my way they wont go to waste, i promise that!!!

  7. Brian says he “loves angels” and presumably, God. How does he think God feels about his creations being rounded up and gassed or blown out of the skies just for the hell of it? Do geese have “guardian angels” or is that only humans? If geese have guardian angels guiding them through the skies, should the angels be shot too? My guardian angel says, “Protect the geese. They are part of our Father’s creations.”

  8. In the beginning of the last century, Canada geese almost went extinct due to over-hunting and destruction of habitat. That led to the passage of the “Migratory Bird Act Treaty” and efforts to bring geese back, particularly in the North East. Canada geese were bred in captivity and later their decendents were released throughout the North East. Now, we complain that these non-migratory geese are “pests” and their numbers need to be radically “reduced.” Why can’t we just leave the geese ALONE and eventually their populations would level off to the enviornment’s capacity to support them. That is how nature works. However, the more we hunt and prey upon the species, the more the species will attempt to breed in order to “compensate” for losses. That is also how nature works — unless between destruction of habitat, hunting, gassing and nest destruction, the numbers decline beyond the species’ ability to recover as happened in the early 1900’s. Geese are not stupid. We should admire these birds for their resiliancy, their exemplary parenting skills, their organization and cooperation among each other and their extraordinary navigational skills. There are many humans who couldn’t navigate their way around a shopping mall without a GPS system.

  9. Hi Brian,

    Thanks for clarifying your position. I so didn’t get that any of that was humor previously! It’s interesting what you wrote – you do dog and cat rescue and that money from some of the hunted geese food helps you out with food for the rescued animals. It’s true … when you do rescue work, it’s rare that anyone helps offset expenses when you are actually doing the work of ‘everyone.’ (I’ve done wildlife rescue and some cat rescue.)

    I’m not sure where to put hunting in how I feel about some of this but we all agree that the geese should not be gassed. I think people eat too much meat and, if everyone ate much less, then less animals would be killed, and perhaps ultimately there’d be an elimination of factory farming (particularly horrific conditions), etc.

    I do think as Patty says, human intervention, loss of habitat, loss of predators upsets any natural balance that might exist. It’s fascinating that geese were once valued (they almost ceased to exist) to the point that they were placed under the “protection” of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act – something that, it seems, with the swipe of a pen, the USDA can condone and allow them to be killed in great numbers because they are now considered “nuisances.”

    Something is clearly wrong with the thinking behind this – it is ripe for “change.”

    Nonetheless, I appreciate the dialogue from you both!

    Cathryn.

  10. Thanks, Catherine for adding a very balanced and diplomatic perspective here.

    I am not a fan of hunting for many reasons (though one might imagine that if the geese had a “choice” of being shot out of the skies or jammed into a gas chamber where it can take up to 45 minutes to die, they might choose the former).

    The problems with hunting (as I see them) are that first, overhunting has brought many species to either the brink of extinction (including Canada geese) or actual extinction. We used to, after all, have millions of passenger pigeons who have now been extinct for more than a century.

    Secondly, what makes us think that every hunter is an “expert marksmen?” Kids as young as 12 can hunt in many areas. I imagine it is very difficult to immediately kill a bird that is flying high in the skies. As such, most are more likely injured and don’t actually die until hitting the ground, if in fact, impact actually kills them.

    Thirdly, when talking about Canada geese, these birds have very tight family units. One is not just shooting a bird, but rather, someone’s mother, father, sibling or offspring. That is a loss to the entire family and to the group.

    There is also the question of just how “healthy” the American diet of high meat and fat is to the average human? Heart disease, obesity, diabetes, various cancers and even high blood pressure have all been linked to a diet too high in animal products.

    Finally, I personally question how some people can obviously have a heart for cats and dogs, but then turn off that empathy when the animal is not a pet. The fact is that a goose can suffer every bit as much as a cat or dog and we already know that geese have strong family bonds and loyalty. Why should wild animals not be entitled to the same or similar stewardship, respect and admiration that our cats and dogs usually, but don’t always garner?

    The fact is, that in terms of that “choice” speculated about at the top of this entry, the geese would not want to make such choice anymore than we would.

    Their real choice is to live. The geese (and all animals) jealously guard and value their lives as we do ours.

    Unless our own lives are in serious jeopardy from attacks or invasions by other animals then it is difficult to believe in or support the wanton destruction of Canada geese or for that matter other animals.

    We need to learn to live peacefully with nature, instead of constantly seeking to dominate and/or destroy so many vital parts of it.

  11. I personally do not understand the pleasure that someone could get from blowing another living creature to smithereens. It would be one thing if we did not live in a land where food was relatively cheap and abundant and had to grow and hunt our own food for survival. But we all know this is not the case. I’m talking about the DESIRE to kill, the THRILL of killing, the ENJOYMENT of taking something’s life – another living being that has a family unit of its own, that wants to live and enjoy a peaceful life as much as I do. It does not want to be a target, nor is it a willing participant in matched challenge.

    Many a former hunter has had a sudden change of heart from one incident. Here is a poem about the last hunt of one such hunter:

    A HUNTER’S POEM by Lem Ward Crisfield

    A hunter shot at a flock of geese
    That flew within his reach,
    Two were stopped in their rapid flight
    And fell on the sandy beach.

    The male bird lay at the water’s edge
    And just before he died,
    He faintly called to his wounded mate
    And she dragged herself to his side.

    She bent her head and crooned to him
    In a way distressed and wild,
    Caressing her one and only mate
    As a mother would a child.

    Then covering him with her broken wing
    And gasping with failing breath,
    She laid her head against his breast
    A feeble honk …then death!

    This story is true though crudely told,
    I was the man in this case,
    I stood knee deep in snow and cold
    And the hot tears burned my face.

    I buried the birds in the sand where they lay,
    Wrapped in my hunting coat,
    And I threw my gun and belt in the bay
    When I crossed in the open boat.

    Hunters will call me a right poor sport
    And scoff at the thing I did,
    But that day something broke in my heart …
    And shoot again??? God forbid!!!

    This poem was published in The Chronicle in Crested Butte, Colorado.

  12. lots of new geese in the area. had a great september season. have lots of meat already. cant wait till opening day on november 24th. honka honka!!!

  13. You know, Brian, I think you have made it abundantly clear by now by your childish and thoroughly offensive sick sense of humor – if anyone can call it that – that you are not only a hypocrit with no respect for animals, but you are a genuine, Grade-A JERK. If it was your goal to so impress us as such, you succeeded magnificently – almost as magnificently as you fail as a higher form of life.

  14. Brian, does reading the poem that lies just above your post have any effect on you at all?

    Pathetic. I know amoebas that have more feeling than you.

  15. I have respect for animals i just love busting you peta loving whackos balls. ive donr more for animals then most of you have. us hunters are the reason there are animals around. ducks unlimited which im a member too and donate lots of money too have done more for geese and ducks then any of you bunny huggers have or will ever do. do you people buy habitat stamps or duck stamps to help conserve? i doubt it! but you peole are the first to bitch or drop 75k on a bmw or mercedes. ill keep my f150 keep supporting my hunting organizations and clubs and ill keep putting meat in my freezer. YOU PEOPLE ARE THE HYPOCRITS.i guess the leather that your gucci bags are made out of didnt come from a slaughtered bull/cow? how about that nice pair of shoes/boots your wearing? your belt? your wallet? i could go on and on. hunters are real your the hypocrits. you people are kind of like the racists who hate everybody thats not american but drive a honda and eat chinese food1 thats you guys. anyhow we harvested alot of sea ducks yesterday. mostly surf scoters and white winged scoters and even a couple common eiders. it was a good day. scary waters but a good time. thanks

  16. I obviously am more in line in my thinking with Mary, Patty and ASteinberg than Brian but I did think we had a certain level of understanding of where we all agreed – caring about some animals, maybe not all. But maybe I was mistaken. Brian came back and with one stroke of his pen put everyone into one stereotype.

    I may not understand hunters or some of the cavalier comments and brutal ways it is conducted for “sport,” that is true. But I don’t think all hunters are one way. I actually haven’t given it much thought. I just don’t agree with that way of stereotypical, generic thinking.

    There is much more forward thinking, more connecting of the dots as far as people who are pro-animal are concerned then perhaps previously — which is why veganism (no eating or wearing of animals) is a known and popular concept, at least here in NYC, and in major cities.

    I find at times people who are “environmental” (I’ve been a long time environmental advocate and activist – not as long as some, but pretty long!) don’t make connections to animal issues, and I hope that changes.

    Slinging insults doesn’t really do anything. Making valid points is one thing. But the insults just keep everyone divided.

    Cathryn.

  17. Thanks, Catherine for a balanced and thoughtful post.

    It is hard to have a productive dialogue with some people who prefer to hurl labels and accusations around than actually think seriously about an issue.

    “Wildlife management” as it exists today is primarily funded by hunters and therefore animal populations are manipulated to favor (and overproduce) those species that are considered “tasty” and fun to shoot.

    It would be far better for the general population to be involved with and funding wildlife services so that emphasis would be on protecting our environment and its animals, rather than manipulating and “managing” it for the benefit of those who take bizarre “pleasure” in killing.

  18. PETA is a nuthouse, don’t think they started this way as nothing stays golden – but that really sucks if they “gassed” the birds. They didn’t feed hungry people? That’s murder then – I’m a hunter and fisherman but only for food and like all real hunters we actually hate the killing part. It’s just about owning what we are as humans. Either these birds were a problem or they were not. If they were not then this is really pretty tragic and way too covert doing this at night.

  19. I’d also like to add – What if a homeless person was caught taking one of these birds for food? I know there is no hunting in the park of course. But really, I think they would probably get in trouble right? This doesn’t make sense and our governments everywhere are totally out of control.

  20. Thanks, Paul, for your comment. It’s part of a larger plan citing air safety (which is fallacy to begin with) – there was no transparency at Prospect Park that year and they did come in the dark of night. The following year birds were “given” allegedly to soup kitchens tho’ there’s no real trail of that. There is concern that many birds did not live to make it to the slaughter house, on top of all the other problems inherent in this scenario. It’s true if a homeless person came in and killed wildlife that would be illegal, yes. However, this was exempted from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (Canada Geese are in theory “protected species”) by the USDA – which also does the killing. It’s quite a tricky ‘business.’

    Thanks for writing!

    Cathryn.

  21. Thanks for the reply Cathryn – right after I posted, I noticed this was an older feed. I was looking at pictures of Washington Square Park – was born up the road on 12th St. the family home and visit every year, usually staying in Brooklyn. Seems to me, the government entities are not providing real and honest solutions. A group made up of hunters and anti-hunters would surely come to a better answer. Out here in Arizona, where I live now, there is a hunting season for Buffalo – 1 Per lifetime per hunter and only 8 permits given in the state per year – yet there is now a push to “cull” 900 Cows and Yearlings where the “hunter” is brought to the offending herd and they pick out your target for you? Not sure what the problem is (surely not air traffic) and the land mass is uninhabited by people and many times the land mass of all 5 NY boroughs and Nassau/Suffolk Co’s. I would think these animals could be moved into other states. Anti-hunters should look into the October 2010 issue of Backpacker magazine. Interesting article and since written by an anti-hunter who went hunting, the article communicates better to the anti than a hunter could I believe.

  22. The USDA Canada Goose Exterminations:
    Flashback to Nazi Germany’s Death Camps

    Of all the revolting films that I have ever seen would be those of Hitler’s SS Storm Troopers rounding up Jews, Gypsies and other “undesirables”, herding them, along with their children onto cattle cars, with inadequate facilities, transporting for days on end in these unsanitary conditions. And then at the end of their long tortuous trip, herding these poor people, with their crying offspring, into waiting gas chambers. These unfortunates never had a chance!

    And today, all over the continental United States, this same sick drama is being played out by the USDA’s SS Troopers. Only the target species this time are not the Jews and Gypsies, but instead the noble Canada Goose along and its half grown, flightless goslings. What a cruel spectacle, the totally devoted Canada Goose parents, which will not leave their goslings, being herded into similarly unsanitary (turkey) crates, with barely enough room for them to breathe. And then the long, tortured journey to the gas chambers. With subsequent cremation just as in Hitler’s death camps.

    The sad part of this picture is being played in Virginia Beach, Virginia …where this revolting practice is going on as I speak. In Virginia Beach, I and other wing shooters have unsuccessfully lobbied, for years now, to open the season on Canadas. As has been done in a number of progressive North American municipalities. This way, man the predator, can, in his ancient tradition, along with his middle school and high school children and their gun dogs, preserve an ancient heritage. While simultaneously managing Canada Goose populations. Birds that have been allowed to grow to adulthood. While utilizing almost all parts of the Goose at the table and in the field. While simultaneously modifying the behavior of these magnificent birds!

    Surely we can be a better people than Hitler and his SS Storm Troopers!

    George Meredith MD
    Virginia Beach, Virginia

  23. Hi George,
    Thanks for writing with your thoughts. I agree it’s terrible.. and I heard about what’s going on there in Virginia but had not read any first hand reports. It’s just really wrong and I agree they are magnificent birds. I’m not a hunting fan but I understand your perspective for sure. I’ll be writing about them again — Thank you. best, Cathryn.

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