Former Parks Commish, State Senator Slam Brooklyn Geese Massacre

Criticism of the unexpected city and federal government destruction of hundreds of Prospect Park geese continues to mount. Newly piling on the anti-geese-gassing bandwagon: former Parks commish Henry Stern and state Senator Eric Adams, who yesterday both issued strongly worded statements questioning the wisdom of destroying the geese that have made the Prospect Park lake their home for generations.

Mr. Stern—who served as Parks Department commissioner for more than a decade and was famous for giving nicknames to Parks Department employees (his was Starquest; current Parks Commish Adrian Benepe’s is Oberon)—sent out an email to his listserv that concluded, “Our view of the problem is that important issues have not been answered satisfactorily, and that we lack confidence in the process employed to reach specific decisions on the use of deadly force on animal families.”

Mr. Stern quoted extensively from the New York City Audubon’s position, which, essentially, is that killing animals in parks should generally be a last resort. Mr. Stern’s full email is copied below.

July 14, 2010 – Federal agents swooped down on Prospect Park last week, removing hundreds of Canada geese and gassing them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the culling was necessary to protect air travelers. Others dispute that claim.

The best introduction to the story is an article by Isolde Raftery that began on pA1 of Tuesday’s Times and jumped to A22. The apt headline was “400 PARK GEESE DIE, FOR HUMAN FLIERS’ SAKE”. The story is really well written, and we suggest you click here to read it if you are interested. We appreciate the attention the Times gave to the subject.

A criticism of the story came from the New York City Audubon Society, whose position was described by the Times as “cautiously supportive of the mass euthanizing”. In a later statement, the Audubon Society took issue with the Times’ description of “NYC Audubon’s position on culling resident Canada geese within the five boroughs.” They now say:

“NYC Audubon believes that lethal control should be the last resort after all other methods for managing bird populations have been exhausted. The blanket approach of lethal control will not significantly reduce the risk birds pose to aviation safety. We maintain that City officials should reduce the amount of lush, green lawn space available throughout the city, which attracts geese. Without such measures, new geese will take up residence here and populations will quickly rebound to current levels. The City may also limit growth of the resident geese population through egg-addling or nest destruction.

“NYC Audubon also takes issue with the target population size identified by the Department of Agriculture, which calls for reducing the number of Canada geese in the city by 80 percent. This figure is not supported by sound scientific research. The recent cull at Prospect Park included nearly 100 percent of the geese in that area; essentially, this population was ‘managed’ into extinction. NYC Audubon strongly disagrees with that decision.

“When one species becomes so abundant that it has a negative impact on the habitat and resources of other native bird species – as may be the case with Canada geese – NYC Audubon, like most Audubon chapters, supports population management. But the option of lethal control should be a last resort, undertaken only when bird populations threaten the health, safety, and welfare of other wildlife and humans, and only after a rigorous environmental impact assessment has been done and full disclosure has been made to local citizens and other stakeholders.”

Our view of the problem is that important issues have not been answered satisfactorily, and that we lack confidence in the process employed to reach specific decisions on the use of deadly force on animal families.

Meanwhile, state Senator Eric Adams issued a statement expressing his dismay at the geese culling:

I am contacting you regarding the Canadian geese culled from Prospect Park and killed last weekend; I was dismayed by the manner in which these majestic creatures were slaughtered. I am upset further by the absence of any notice to residents; I am aware that numerous individuals visit the park to watch and feed the geese, and that many were alarmed by the absence of these beautiful birds.

I am convinced that a more humane method might have been used to control the goose population. The operation was conducted under the auspices of the United States Department of Agriculture, and I would urge any individual who was distressed to write both to them and to his/her federal representatives (Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Congressperson Yvette Clarke). The geese were removed as a result of the “danger posed to civil aviation,” and a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration would also be appropriate.

Please know that I take this matter very seriously, having sponsored an April 19, 2010 roundtable discussion on animal rights in the State Senate Hearing Room at 250 Broadway, N.Y., and introduced legislation that requires governmental agencies (such as the police) to make a good faith attempt to provide service horses with a suitable “retirement” habitat.

Former Parks Commish, State Senator Slam Brooklyn Geese Massacre