Mysterious dogs sent on wild goose chase at Fort Totten

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Dogs made of bark that cannot bite have been popping up around Fort Totten to scare off gaggles of geese, but no city agency has yet to come forward to take credit for placing the pretend pooches at the historic fort.

Two wooden dogs sat on the fort’s soccer field, while another stood by its gazebo last weekend. But representatives from the city Parks and Fire departments said their agencies were not employing any methods to hound birds at the fort amid a U.S. Department of Agriculture operation to capture itinerant geese threatening flights at the city’s two airports.

A spokesman for Bayside’s 111th Precinct also said the Police Department was not involved in the matter.

Trish Bertuccio, a spokeswoman for the Parks Department, said the dogs “are there to scare the geese.”

But Vickie Carp, another Parks spokeswoman, said the mutts did not come from the city.

“There is no goose-scaring initiative,” Carp said. “I’ve heard anecdotally that there are some guys who play soccer there who put up some coyotes as a lark. But they don’t belong to Parks.”

She also said fake owls on the docks at Fort Totten Bay were likely in place to scare away pigeons.

Warren Schreiber, president of the Bay Terrace Community Alliance, said he suggested placing fake dogs at the fort several years ago, but his idea was curtailed.

“The problem with the geese goes back about four years,” he said. “I’d suggested they put up wooden dogs, but everyone laughed at me like I was crazy. I think it’s worth a try before they go to the extreme step of capturing and exterminating the geese. They are supposedly gathering them and using so-called humane methods of euthanasia because they’re saying the geese are interfering with planes.”

The USDA has been undertaking a project in which it is removing geese within a 7-mile radius of John F. Kennedy International and LaGuardia airports, Carp said. A US Airways plane was forced to land on the Hudson River after geese were sucked into its engines when it took off from LaGuardia in 2009. The USDA could not be reached for comment.

Susan Seinfeld, district manager of Bayside’s Community Board 11, said the community has long griped about the geese’s uses of the fort.

“There is a problem with birds using the bathroom on the field,” she said.

The fort, which is under the Parks Department’s jurisdiction, is located along the Cross Island Parkway at Totten Road in Bay Terrace.

Reach reporter Nathan Duke by e-mail at nduke@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4566.

Updated 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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