Wildlife agents round up flocks of geese near JFK

Wildlife agents with the U.S. Department of Agriculture remove Canada geese near JFK Airport. Photo courtesy David Karopkin
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Federal wildlife agents removed hundreds of geese thought to be a hazard to air safety at Kennedy Airport last week, but an animal-rights activist who filmed them said the government is setting the fowl up as a red herring.

In the four years since Capt. Chelsey “Sully” Sullenberger landed US Airways Flight 1549 on the Hudson River after an apparent bird strike, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has removed thousands of Canada geese in New York City.

On June 2, agents removed 231 geese from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge near JFK and took them to a poultry processing facility, a spokeswoman for the USDA said.

“For aviation, Canada geese are among the most hazardous birds. Although goose-aircraft strikes aren’t common, more than half are with multiple geese and three-quarters have an effect on the flight or cause damage,” said USDA spokeswoman Carol Bannerman.

David Karopkin, founder of the advocacy group GooseWatchNYC, got wind of the culling and headed to the Jamaica Bay reserve with his video camera. He recorded agents removing the geese in what he called a hollow showing of safety efforts.

“The potential for a bird to collide with an airplane has served as the justification for this colossal effort to kill geese and other birds. To that we say ‘shenanigans,’” he said. “It doesn’t seem to have any impact on safety. They’re just touting that what they’re doing is about safety.”

In the wake of the “Miracle on the Hudson” accident that occurred after Sullenberger took off from LaGuardia Airport, the National Transit Safety Board issued a report concluding a bird strike was the probable cause and made a number of recommendations, including one that airports develop and implement a wildlife hazard management plan.

Working with the Port Authority, the city has opened its parks to the USDA and the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees the National Parks Service, has done the same for the Jamaica refuge.

Agents remove the migratory geese in June and July when the birds are molting and have young goslings they will not abandon.

Karopkin contends the removal of the birds does nothing in the long term and said there are other things the government could be doing.

“If the leaders truly cared about air safety, there are other initiatives that would improve public safety,” he said. “Killing geese is probably somewhere near the bottom of the list.”

Karopkin cited alternatives, such as modifying the habitats near airports with grasses the geese do not like so they will go somewhere else, but Bannerman said the birds have in the past torn up grasses planted by the Army Corps. of Engineers.

The USDA said its wildlife agents began treating goose eggs near LaGuardia Airport with oil in 2001, and since then the agency has had to remove fewer birds.

Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4574.

Posted 2:54 am, July 12, 2013
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Reader feedback

Laura Mae from Chesapeake, VA says:
"Consider that of all the fatalities involving commercial aircraft worldwide since the 1950s: 50 percent were attributed to pilot error; 22 percent to mechanical failure; 12 percent to weather; 9 percent to sabotage; and 7 percent other human error. The total of all bird strikes accounts for an accident rate of 0.068 percent - that's less than 1 percent - with Canada geese as a fraction of this number." (source: Canada Geese Post Slim Threat To Planes, by Mary Castrovilla, The Journal News, 6 Sept 2012.)
July 14, 2013, 5:43 am
Kim from NY says:
The egg-oiling efforts have been less than sincere. Reports from advocates tell stories of biologist at Jamaica Bay dismissing the benefit of egg-oiling, and resisting volunteer efforts to get programs of this nature going. The USDA is known to be extremely negative toward egg-oiling. In one of their kill contracts, they make the preposterous claim that egg-oiling causes geese to migrate to the sub-arctic. This is 100% false, as any community who actually oils eggs knows: the geese nest in the same place every year, the population just does not grow.

Activists have also been watching this flock of geese, and they were ONLY molting at the "Refuge." They were not permanent residents, and would have left of their own accord in a couple weeks had the govt not invaded the park and killed them. Ripping up the grasses? Please.

We need to call this what it is: a war on a particular species for profit. The USDA makes millions of dollars on these contracts. For NYC alone it is a couple hundred thousand every year. It has nothing to do with safety, grasses, or any other thing. ALL of these issues can be resolved without killing a single animal.
July 14, 2013, 8:36 am
PattyA from Manhattan says:
"The USDA says......"

Well, you can certainly take that to the bank!

Unfortunately, the President and other administrators at Chattanooga State College did just that recently. They believed USDA when told that the hundred geese on the college campus would be rounded up and "relocated."

What USDA did NOT say was that the geese were being "relocated" to their deaths.

As for the claim of "oiling eggs" as another poster correctly points out, USDA generally dismisses all non-lethal methods of goose management as it is not where their "make work" profits are.

A nature lover recently photographed goose parents and their baby goslings at Jamaica Bay this past May. -- A goose family rounded up and slaughtered by USDA less than three months later.

Thanks, Times Ledger for filling us up with more "spin" from USDA Wildlife Services -- an agency that kills more than 5 million animals a year, including more than 25,000 Canada geese.

But, lets not deal with actual facts.
July 14, 2013, 10:39 am
PatN from Mother Earth says:
Federal wildlife agents removed hundreds of geese thought to be a hazard to air safety at Kennedy Airport.
Lies, lies, and more lies.
July 14, 2013, 12:23 pm
Marion A from Manhattan says:
Carol Bannerman and the USDA are full of it talking in very vague misleading vague terms and with no stats about strikes or costs related to strikes ever given.

Since January 1, 2005 there have been 3 goose/plane strikes at La Guardia airport: April 11, 2006; January 15, 2009 when Flight 1549 hit MIGRATING geese from Canada, and a strike Ocober 14, 2010 which consisted of a few dead geese being found on the runway. All three of these strikes could have been migrating geese.

This is a very low goose/plane strike rate to begin with so the idea killing Canada geese in NYC will improve air safety at La Guardia is totally ridiculous. This is on the Atlantic Flyway and hundreds of thousand fly through there twice a year.

I checked the birdstrike stats for JFK back to January, 2005. There has been an average of one goose/plane strike a year including one in May, 2013. Killing geese is not going to improve that record at all because geese migrate; they also migrate to molt and a lot of those geese taken from Jamaica Bay were probably geese there just to molt their flight feathers in safety and they would have been gone as soon as they could fly.

It is REPREHENSIBLE the USDA kills geese when it is doing nothing 'to keep planes safe' or to decrease the cost of bird strikes to the aviation industry. It is doing NOTHING. It is a WASTE OF TAXPAYERS MONEY.

Ask the USDA WS to provide stats showing killing geese has reduced the costs of birdstrikes to the aviation industry by one American dollar....they can't provide that evidence because it doesn't exist.
July 14, 2013, 4:07 pm
Marion A from Manhattan says:
IF the USDA's killing program was achieving anything they would be have some stats to show and they NEVER do.

Israel’s Birdstrike Control Program on the other hand showed amazing results in decrease in both birdstrikes and costs related to birdstrikes – their costs related to birdstrikes went from over 10 million a year to 82,000 a year!!! .


Prior to BCP’s involvement with the IAF, average annual damage to IAF aircraft due to birds at the Israeli airbases was roughly US $10.3 million/year!

Since the implementation of bcp’s wildlife management protocols and guidelines more than 9 years ago, the IAF has only suffered a total of us $82,000 in damage combined for all major airbases that have implemented the program (or roughly US $8,400/year).



Accomplishments and reductions in costs as a result of the wildlife control services provided by BCP’s program at Hurlburt Airfield have been dramatic and resulted in being recognized in a variety of awards and acknowledgements of performance. They include:

90% reduction in repair cost for bird strikes; 95% reduction in repair costs due to damaging wildlife strikes at Hurlburt Airfield; 100% REDUCTION IN NECESSITY FOR LETHAL CONTROL MEASURES (LCM)

There you have it....the USDAs killing has done nothing while nonlethal methods achieved amazing results. The USDA WS is only interested in getting paid to kill animals. Time the airports in NYC kicked them out and got some intelligent experts.

Bird Strike Committee USA/ Bird Strike Committee Canada
9th Annual Joint Meeting September 10 - 13, 2007

As a result of its efforts, Hurlburt Field was awarded the prestigious U.S. Air Force’s General Thomas D. White Natural Resources Conservation Award, with the BASH (Bird Avoidance Strike Hazard) program playing a prominent role in garnering the award.

Despite the conventional opinion of the air safety community that effective wildlife control cannot be achieved without lethal control and massive habitat destruction, HURLBURT FIELD HAS DRAMATICALLY IMPROVED SAFETY THROUGH THE IMPLEMENTATION OF PURELY NON-LETHAL METHODS AND WITH MINIMAL IMPACT TO ITS LOCAL ENVIRONMENT.

Dr. Carter has been actively involved in the wildlife management community for the past 21 years and directly involved in wildlife management programs at airports and airfields around the world for the past 10 years. Dr. Carter has personally developed the Wildlife
Management Hazard Plans (WMHP) and wildlife management program for the entire Israeli Air Force at all major airbases inthe country and was responsible for the development of the bird avoidance strike hazard (BASH) programs for the US Air Forceat Dover Air Force Base (Dover, Delaware)and Hurlburt Field Special Operations Wing(Ft. Walton Beach, Florida).

Dr. Carter was also a key consultant for the development ofthe wildlife management program at August Regional Airport (Augusta, Georgia). Dr.Carter also implemented wildlife control utilizing Border collies to actively harasswildlife in existing management programs at Vancouver International Airport(Vancouver, Canada), Cold Lake Air ForceBase (Cold Lake, Canada), and SouthwestFlorida International Airport (Ft. Myers, Florida).

July 14, 2013, 4:18 pm
Marion A from Manhattan says:
Pulitzer prize winning journalist Tom Knudson did a series of investigative articles on the USDA WS.

“The Killing Agency – Wildlife Services (USDA WS) brutal methods leaves a trail of animal death.”

..there are also links to related news and editorials.

Two recent documents are drawing renewed attention to the federal government's wildlife damage control program.

One is a bipartisan letter from four members of the U.S. House of Representatives requesting a congressional investigation of Wildlife Services, a U.S. Department of Agriculture agency that specializes in killing birds and mammals considered a threat to livestock, the public and the environment.

USDA's own stats on their wildlife killings. Killings that include 850,000 cowbirds, 306,000 blackbirds, 76,000 coyotes, 91,000 pigeons, 21,000 double-crested cormorants, squirrels, raccoons, 30,000 beavers and even cats and dogs.

The USDA WS lies through its teeth. They get one billion in government funding plus they get another 126 million for contract killing. It's insanity how any country has an agency getting away with this BS.

It is time every journalist worth their name began exposing them, not covering for them when so many thinking intelligent people know the truth.

"They've been at it for almost a century, killing, maiming, poisoning, brutalizing wildlife....and they think they are going to continue getting away with it......" (they are NOT).
July 14, 2013, 4:48 pm
El from Ny says:
This is horrible.. Poor geese
July 14, 2013, 6:15 pm
Mary from Yonkers, NY says:
when 50 % of air plane fatalities are caused by PILOT error - and .0068 per cent by all wildlife strikes, who does the USDA think we are - bird brains?? Last July when 751 geese were culled at Jamaica Bay, Gillibrand cited destruction of the wetlands as yet another reason to kill geese. Then, it came to light that the CITY had been sued for dumping raw sewage into the Bay. I have tremendous rage toward USDA, Bloomberg and Gillibrand - for scapegoating OUR geese. Killing geese and wildlife is for THEIR political aims, and done out of GREED.
July 14, 2013, 10:12 pm
David from park slope says:
Yeah but killing unborn babies is ok.... u foolish tree huggers are more than willing to risk human life for the life of a bird... u all make me sick to my stomach.... they that would worship the creation and not the creator. .... I wonder if Jesus was talking about you?.....the end result of worshiping the creation is not a pretty the underclass always become the sacrificed. Wake-up
July 15, 2013, 2:47 am
Marion A from Manhattan says:
David from park slope "Yeah but killing unborn babies is ok."

RU off your meds? IF you are worried about human life maybe you shouldn't fly at all. Do you know of one plane crash that took a human life due to geese??? No, but just kill them anyhow he says.

Secondly you don't seem to be able to absorb the fact that killing the geese is doing NOTHING for air safety. You're a dimwit. And I am sick of people like you. Flight 1549 hit MIGRATING GEESE FROM LABRADOR CANADA....MOST GOOSE STRIKES IN NEW YORK OCCUR DURING THE MIGRATION PERIOD. THE COSTS TO AVIATION FROM BIRD STRIKES HAS NOT IMPROVE ONE IOTA FROM ALL THE GOOSE KILLING.

You are wasting one billion 126 million on the USDA WS to kill harmless animals. Way to go.l

And why you think you are God's chosen when you know nothing about the rest of us is beyond me. This is NOT WORSHIPPING NATURE; it is TAKING CARE OF NATURE AND INNOCENT CREATURES.

Then God blessed them, saying, "Let the fish multiply and fill the oceans. Let the birds increase and fill the earth."

23 This all happened on the fifth day.
July 15, 2013, 3:36 am
Herb de Bray from Canada, central north says:
From Canada, Firstly, the number reported air strikes with Canada Geese is minimal if it at all. People fly all manner of planes from west to east and locally. Yet, nothing deliterious has happened. The Jet Blue adventure was a fluke...was it really Canada Gesse or a flock of doves? Where are the remains. The pilot did a miraculous and knowledgeable job in landing the plane on water,,,no easy feat.
How many of you have witnessed the compelling cycle of gosling birth to flight hood for months on end. I was gifted to able to be within 5 m. of the Gander who was the boss of this gaggle.
We ultra intelligent humans have a lot to learn from Canada Goose behavior with their amazing communication skills, one really has to watch morning and night, in storms and in calm, and the raising of their young.
It's really too bad humans are unable to learn from this magnificent progression and development and to witness the incredible launching of a new age of Canada Geese.
To me, a 4 foot high Gander watching over his gaggle of 40 or so, adults and goslings, 5 m. from me and my dog was surrealistic!
It is something I will never forget!
Sept. 9, 2013, 8:47 pm

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