Friday, July 16, 2010

The Prospect of Goosegate

Budget Deadlock - Day 106

No Activity in the Yankee Bullpen

Goose Gassers Ignored

Own Seven-Mile Rule

On Airport Proximity

In the last two days, we received 28 emails in response to our article on the slaughter of the 400 Prospect Park geese because they were viewed as hazardous to air travel.

Our attitude has been not to condemn or to approve the action, which was said to have been taken by the United States Department of Agriculture with the concurrence of local authorities. We want to know more about the decision and the basis on which it was made. Is there a general policy of exterminating Canada geese? Are there reasons for singling out the Prospect Park geese for the mobile gas chamber, followed by the landfill? Does it make any difference if these geese were migratory or non-migratory, or whether they ever left the precincts of the park?

We posted the emails that we received on our blog, you can find them here. They range from readers supporting or condemning the killing of the geese on principle to others seeking more information, which we are finding is not that easy to elicit from the government agencies involved.

We will continue our inquiries, so we can get the facts for you on this matter. We read in the Times where the bodies are buried – in a landfill.

What we do not know is how, why or by whom this gaggle of geese was selected for termination with extreme prejudice. We suggest an inquiry by an agency not previously involved with the program. If the standard is proximity to an airport, who draws the lines and on what basis are they determined? The radius from the airport was said to be seven miles in the multi-agency press release, increased from five miles in 2009. Prospect Park was alleged to be between six and seven miles from both LaGuardia and JFK airports.

The determination of distance should be made as the crow (or goose) flies. With the aid of Google Earth, a tool equally available to the authorities, we estimated the distance from the Prospect Park Lake to JFK airport at over 9 miles, and to LaGuardia at over 10 miles. We derive from this a certain lack of confidence in government data and a suspicion of ansercide (slaying of ducks and geese, cf. arborcide, the wanton murder of trees - see NY Times, 7/15/10, AFTER ARREST IN ATTACKS ON TREES, THINKING MORE THAN JUST OAKS NEED HELP).

The justification for the removal of geese appears in a June 17 press release from the Department of Environmental Protection, which we link to here. It explains the plan, but does not discuss its execution, either out of squeamishness or fear of public distaste.

The issue of ansercide is also discussed in a New York Times blog today, with two contrary views expressed. One is “Kill Them, Don’t Gas Them” by Steven Garber, CEO of Worldwide Ecology, a consultant to airports, and the other is “Death Isn’t the Answer”, by Sharon Pawlak, Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese. As of this writing, the Times has received 143 comments from readers of its opinion blog. The first one is “Maybe we could kill them and eat them? After all, we kill many animals to eat, and killing to eat is more justifiable than killing to eliminate a nuisance.”

This controversy is likely to continue. We will keep trying to get the facts for you, which may not be easy in the face of bureaucratic reluctance to discuss the details of the issue. The Prospect Park geese are gone, but nature has great capacity to restore what is snatched from it. We do not believe that Prospect Park will be bereft of geese forever.

And we certainly hope that there is no threat to the Central Park ducks. What would Holden Caulfield say if he knew they were endangered by overeager officials carrying canisters of carbon dioxide?


  1. I have enjoyed reading your blog. Excellent coverage of this situation. Thank you so much for helping to shed light on this issue. It is a complicated, emotional topic for many in the community and I was glad that you also pointed out the serious policy questions it raises.
    Lauren Elvers Collins

  2. Anonymous1:29 PM

    Henry – I recall that the village of Carmel in Putnam County instituted the policy a few years ago of allowing the killing of Canadian geese with the meat to ge given to deserving people in the community for food. The policy was employed in response to a large and ever-expanding goose population in the village. I do not know if the policy continues or how it was received. Maybe the escapees found their way to Prospect Park.


  3. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Why couldn't they have been relocated? Couldn't another option short of bringing them to a butcher have been appropriate? Even a butcher, while horrifying, would have been more useful.

  4. Anonymous1:30 PM


    GREAT title-B

  5. Anonymous1:31 PM

    henry; you are certainly on themoney when you inquire about the geeseslaugter. We need clarity and who knows what will be the next target or species-A

  6. Anonymous1:32 PM

    My father used to like to quote a cookbook that said

    "Canadian geese can live 75 years. There is no method of cooking yet invented that will make such a goose edible."

    One wonders how many other flocks are within the mileage -- golf courses are supposed to be full of geese these days.


  7. Anonymous1:37 PM

    thanks for searching out the facts about the geese-J

  8. Anonymous1:41 PM

    Good observation Henry! Also, if they use that "seven mile rule" what about the huge flocks of geese that frequent the grass along the south shore Belt Parkway? Wouldn't they be more likely to interfere with flight paths of the planes I see everyday above sunny Sheepshead Bay and neighboring south shore areas along the coast line? Make you wonder?
    Are the sharks next?-S.B

  9. Anonymous1:41 PM

    it's a sad state of affairs when the killing of geese get a larger response then let's say our state legislators or any other truly important issue.

    dr. z.

  10. Anonymous1:42 PM

    The whole episode sounds like a George Orwell Animal Farm satire of the Final Solution. There should be a Nuremberg style war crimes trial of the anti-Geese perpetrators. No doubt, some Canadians should sit on such a tribunal.


  11. Anonymous1:42 PM

    We already took care of the situation through the use of dogs, no deaths.

  12. Anonymous1:46 PM

    HJS & Co.,

    What precisely is the state of current relevant federal and/or state/local ansercide law and regulation ?

  13. Anonymous1:47 PM

    Column # 2 on the geese. How many did you write about the huge number of trees taken down on Riker's Island in the last couple of years with the participation and agreement of the Parks Dep't.?

  14. Anonymous1:47 PM

    As a permitted NY State hunter, my policy regarding the ethics of killing game animals is, "You kill it, you eat it." Obviously, this rule, when applied to a state that practices captial punishment, might have unapetizing consequences, but I am suprised that no one has thought to take a stand on this waste of good, free food. Once the state realizes that cooked goose, in any of its many delicious permutations, can serve inmates and state hospital residents for a fraction of the cost of the high fat and additive-loaded meats currently offered, this overpopulated species will soon to be endangered. I am frankly surpised that the hungry residents surrounding the park haven't taken short lengths of garden hose and whacked a few for dinner already. Certainly the detriment of a protective state has been suitably lifted-G A

  15. Anonymous1:48 PM

    I usually enjoy StarQuest, Henry, but come on! You’re writing about geese; Brooks is writing about Mel Gibson; Collins is writing about the Palin kid! Have you all given up on the serious issues?-R.M

  16. Anonymous1:49 PM

    Dear Commissioner Stern,

    I always enjoy your articles. And I agree with your main point, that more information is needed. But in this case, I was a bit surprised that you did not comment on the statement that you included from the NY Audubon Society, that they "maintain that City officials should reduce the amount of lush, green lawn space available throughout the city, which attracts geese."
    Obviously, the problem is not too many geese, but rather that the city has too much green space! If we pave over Prospect Park, then the geese will leave! This reminds me of the philosophy of the proto-Republicans of the 1850s, the so-called "Barn Burners" (based on the folk tale of the farmer who burns his barn in order to get rid of the rats)....

  17. Anonymous1:49 PM

    Yes get rid of the Geese and let's hear it for Population Control as we continue to face economic hardships on our society's ability to provide services-A.L.B