New York City Canada Geese cull may expand
By Amy Husser,
Postmedia NewsJuly 23, 2010

The recent gassing of a large flock of Canada Geese in New York City may be part of a larger plan to kill more than 165,000 of the large migratory birds.

A nine-page "work plan" outlines the U.S. city's goal for a three-fold reduction in the population of Canada geese, which suggests taking their numbers from 250,000 to 85,000.

"The increasing abundance of these 8-10 pound flocking birds in urban and suburban landscapes has resulted in significant aviation safety hazard for the flying public and military aircraft," the report says. "While the risk of a strike is low, the consequences can be catastrophic."

Earlier this month, the New York Times reported the cull began when city officials rounded up 400 Canada Geese in Brooklyn's Prospect Park and took them to a nearby veterinarian facility to euthanize them with lethal doses of carbon dioxide.

But documents posted to the newspaper's website this week highlight that those deaths represent just a fraction of the overall target.

The year-old guidelines suggest a six-man team perform the cull over a four-week period in June and July, with an overall objective to remove all Canada geese from New York's parks, ball fields and all other man-made and natural habitats within eight kilometres of any city airport.

While the report notes other jurisdictions have opted to reduce populations by hunting or moving geese from one location to another, it instead suggests a capture-and-euthanize plan for New York.

The gassings, it says, should take place during the summer moult "when the birds are unable to fly" because they have shed their feathers at as many as 54 sites.

"Canada geese are the third most hazardous animal which planes strike in North American due to the high probability of the strike resulting in damage . . . to the aircraft," the documents say, noting only deer and vultures are more dangerous.

According to the Times, around 1,200 geese at 17 sites were euthanized in New York last summer.

The justification for bird deaths comes from a potentially disastrous incident when a January 2009 flight leaving New York's La Guardia Airport hit a flock of Canada geese just six minutes after takeoff, badly damages the plane's engines.

The so-called "Miracle on the Hudson" grabbed headlines across the U.S. when the pilot successfully landed the $60-million aircraft on the nearby river, and all of its 155 passengers escaped virtually unscathed.

The report says there have been 78 Canada goose "strikes" over the past 10 years, causing millions of dollars in damages.

The North American Canada geese population is an estimated 4.3 million.

This isn't the first time the birds bearing Canada's namesake have come under attack.

Canada geese were served up at food banks in Oregon in early July after 109 of the birds were asphyxiated with carbon dioxide in retaliation for defecating all over a local park.

And in 2009, Canadian Senator Nancy Ruth offered up a similar proposal for southern Ontario, calling the birds a "health hazard" because their fecal waste, after it runs into nearby lakes, causes skin irritation known as swimmer's itch