According to the Delaware Division of Wildlife, around 700 geese were taken from 2 state parks and 5 or 6 private sites (including a golf course or two, and a senior center) and killed at a poultry slaughterhouse for distribution to the poor.
Two Coalition members, Sue (NJ Coalition) and Gregg (NY Coalition), independently spoke with Lloyd Alexander of the Delaware Division of Wildlife (the person who gave state permission for this action) regarding the round ups that took place last week.
Here's a summary of what he told them:
When Gregg asked why 700 geeese, he said, "FWS would only allow us 10% of the estimated state population of 7000."
When Gregg asked what was biologically significant about the number, in terms of the situation they were trying to address, Alexander avoided answering - he started rambling about something else.
When asked for the reason for the round up, he told them both essentially the same thing: goose poop on the sidewalk, on picnic tables, high coliform counts at one swimming pond, algae blooms. [Ed. note: When asked if there was scientific evidence linking the geese to the coliform counts or the algae blooms, Alexander paused, then said, "No."] He said that giving the geese to hunting areas didn't work -they just came back - same with relocation. "We tried hunting them last year and it didn't work." [Ed. note: This is an interesting admission, since many states have instituted "special" hunting seasons to go after so-called problem geese. It seems that these hunts are just fundraisers for state wildlife agencies and have nothing to do with "problem-solving" - something that the Coalition has claimed from the beginnning.]
Sue asked what happened to the goslings - were they separated from their parents?.
Response: Some, most went to a private conservation group that wanted them.
Sue: To be hunted?
The geese were rounded up by a single contractor called Wildlife Management Services in Dover.
The geese were then taken to a slaughterhouse called Alexander's (no relationship to the state wildlife manager) in Golts, MD, a commercial goose facility where hunters take their dead geese.
Sue: Did you consult any animal protection groups to see if anyone would take the geese before the kill?
Response: "We're not required to get the advice of animal rights groups who oppose everything we do. Animals are to be managed by man. When people's quality of life is affected, some animals should be managed and processed. Besides, Maryland would never allow us to bring geese into the state. They've got their own problems. Also, we view geese as a non-native intruder, an invasive species that adversely affects native species." [Ed. note: when he said the same to Gregg, Gregg said you can hardly find a less native or more invasive species than the white man in North America; you sure have your work cut out for yourself," - followed by a nervous chuckle from Alexander.] "We view it as a service to root them out. We've got people calling us on the phone today saying we didn't kill enough, come get the ones by them."
Gregg: Why does it appear that those who complain about, and want to kill, wildlife get a higher priority than those who don't?
No direct response to the question.
Sue: Will you kill more in the future?
Response: "I'm sure of it."
Every time Alexander was asked who wanted the geese killed he said, "The Department of the Interior issues the permits...." Eventually he said the towns wanted it done. "There were meetings in Wyoming (DE), people for and against, very controversial."
Sue: For the public parks, why wasn't the public notified ahead of time?
Response: Not necessary.
When Sue asked about non-lethal methods, Alexander said they don't work. When Gregg asked him the same thing, Alexander said that they had worked with the parks on that sort of thing, but it was clear they "really hadn't done much," I mean, please, a golf course with a goose problem after having "tried" border collies?
Gregg: Will the geese be tested for environmental toxins before human consumption?
Response: [Pause].....No, not that I'm aware of.
Gregg: Who paid Wildlife Management Services for the round ups?
Response: Each site paid.
Gregg: So, the state parks paid for the round ups on their property, and the private sites paid for the services themselves?
Gregg: Who paid the slaughterhouse?
Response: Again, each site paid for their geese.
Gregg: So the state park system paid to have geese slaughtered?
Response: Yes, that's right.
Gregg: Who will receive the flesh?
Response: Charities, the Salvation Army and the local Hunters for the Hungry chapter.
The Coalition is investigating the disposition of the dead geese.
On June 23, in response to a suit filed by several wildlife protection organizations, a Federal Judge in Virginia issued a restraining order to stop the planned capture and slaughter of 1,500 Canada geese from 14 areas around the state.
It was the first time that a federal agency (USDA, Wildlife Services) intentionally attempted to kill Canada geese without a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service. In the recent past, a court ruling (involving the incidental killing of migratory birds due to US Forest Service activities) suggested that Federal agencies are exempt from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (i.e., they do not need permits to kill migratory birds). In Virginia, the USDA was poised to kill geese on a generalized interpretation of this ruling. It remains unclear whether direct, permitless, actions by Federal agencies are allowed against migratory birds, as opposed to "incidental" killing.
According to a story in the June 24, 1998 Richmond Times-Dispatch, Martin Lowney, state diretor of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Service Division said, "We were ready to go." In fact, they had already begun to round up geese early in the morning on the 23rd. Geese that will now have to be released.
Judge Kathleen Kollar-Kotelly ruled that the killing could not proceed because the defendants failed to assess the full impact of the plan.
While the killing was allegedly intended to address "problems" people were having with geese, Ann Frisch, National Coordinator for the Coalition, said, "From the USDA's perspective the motive is money - they get paid for these killings. It's in their best interest to amplify the alleged problems so that they can sell killing as a solution - even if it has no practical effect."
Indeed, despite having killed geese last year in Virginia, the areas from which all the geese were eradicated are no better off. Other geese just moved in to take advantage of the vacant habitat.
Congratulations to all those who made this victory possible especially Citizens for the Preservation of Wildlife and HSUS.
Public Pressure Foils Goose Kill in Mississauga (Canada)!
In an attempt to emulate a few less-enlightened municipalities, the Canadian city of Mississauga (Ontario) wanted to capture, fatten and slaughter "bothersome" Canada geese this spring. Due to public pressure and the threat of a court challenge, the Canadian Wildlife Service (CWS) refused to grant the city the necessary permit. This action reflects a distinctly different attitude from that of the CWS' Stateside counterpart, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Time and again, the USFWS has dismissed the concerns of the American public with unabashed contempt, issuing permits to kill geese without the slightest hesitation.
Kudos to the Canadian activists involved for mobilizing widespread public opposition to goose killing - a support base that has captured the interest of respected community leaders who now share the goal of finding humane, non-lethal methods of goose control as well as creative ways to fund them.
Clarkstown Town Board Votes NO GOOSE KILLING in 1998
New City, NY -- In a 3-2 vote this evening, the Clarkstown Town Board resolved not to kill Canada geese this year - a departure from the killings that took place in 1996 and 1997. Despite massive public opposition, Supervisor Holbrook sent 457 geese to be slaughtered over the last two years. This evening, the Town Board committed to the use of proven non-lethal methods of goose control as recommended by the Rockland County Task Force Report on Canada Geese.
Dr. Martha MacGuffie, M.D. (a highly-revered community figure well known for her work on behalf of people and wildlife, especially in violence- and disease-ravaged Africa), and Dr. Arlene Kahn coordinated the distribution of an open letter to the town board urging the use of non-lethal methods for controlling Canada geese, instead of the ineffective and unethical killings of the past. The letter, which was presented individually to board members late last week, was read to the town board by Dr. MacGuffie. Dr. Kahn read the names of the many community leaders who were signatories.
The list included: Robert Binnewies (Exec. Director of the Palisades Interstate Park Commission); the Hon. Sam Colman (NYS Assemblyman); the Hon. Paul J. Feiner (Candidate for 20th US Congressional District); Ms. Betty Hedges (Rockland County Conservation Association); Charles "Joe" Hynes (Brooklyn D.A., candidate for Governor); the Hon. Ellen Jaffee (Rockland County Legislator); Ray Mundy (Director, Rockland County SPCA); the Hon. Vijay Pradhan (Rockland County Legislator); the Hon. Kenneth P. Zebrowski (Majority Leader, Rockland County Legislature). Movie star Alec Baldwin also added his name to the list days before the meeting.
Councilwoman Ann Marie Smith introduced the resolution that would discontinue the killing so that last year's broken promise - that non-lethal methods be given a fair chance - was formalized. An attempt was made by Councilman Ralph Mandia to table the motion, ostensibly so that he could "read" the simple resolution. Supervisor Holbrook, anxious to stall any effort to interfere with his killing scheme, was quick to second the motion to table the resolution, but the motion did not pass as the other three board members voted no. Thus, a vote on the resolution to not kill geese in 1998 in favor of non-lethal control was called. The vote was as follows:
Councilwoman Ann Marie Smith - introduced the resolution - votes: YES
The resolution passed 3-2. Thus, no geese will die in Clarkstown this year - at least that's the implication. The town will now need to begin implementing non-lethal methods of goose control. The Coalition will work with the town to insure that they have the most up-to-date information on these methods, so that they may be implemented properly in a timely fashion.
Gander and His Mate Killed by a Federal Agency Out of Control
Bergen County, NJ -- Last week, a woman leaving Pascack Valley Hospital fell after being frightened by a pair of Canada geese. The geese were protecting the nest they had built on an island in the parking lot. Neither she nor her escort saw the tiny sign indicating that visitors should stay clear of the nesting area. This unfortunate situation was then compounded when the hospital took misguided remedial action.
According to Carol Cufone, public relations director, staff members were seeking advice on what to do and getting the run-around from state wildlife officials. She claims that the intent of the hospital was not to harm the geese, but to have the nest relocated. Unfortunately, the hospital called in one of the federal government's most destructive agencies, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service/Wildlife Services (APHIS/WS). They netted the goose, drugged her mate and carted the geese back to their office to be gassed. This cold-blooded sort of killing is the hallmark of APHIS/WS. In truth, all that had to be done to resolve the conflict at the hospital would have been to remove the nest and prevent access to that spot by installing a temporary plastic fence - the geese would have relocated on their own.
APHIS/WS is well-known for its brutalization of wildlife. It is a federal agency constantly on the run from its own reputation. Once part of the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency then known as Animal Damage Control (ADC) had such a bad reputation as unrestrained killers of wildlife, that it was transferred to the US Department of Agriculture. In a recent attempt to hide from its past, ADC changed its name to "Wildlife Services (WS)." Unfortunately, their agenda hasn't changed at all. Those who have studied the agency know that the only "service" it offers is killing, and there is apparently no limit to their means: gassing, poisoning, shooting, trapping, etc. As evidenced by the above story, no job is too small. It is one of the most-scrutinized of all federal agencies. Investigations have shown that, despite costing U.S. taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year, their wildife "control" activities (killing) seldom resolve the human-wildlife conflicts in question. Indeed, some have argued that it would be more efficient for the federal government to disband the agency altogether, because it would take only a fraction of the tax dollars saved to pay those suffering wildlife "damage" directly for their losses.
When asked why her agents didn't just relocate the geese rather than kill them, Janet Bucknell, Head of Wildlife Services in New Jersey, said that it was "against the law to relocate geese in New Jersey". According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, this is untrue. Indeed, no such law exists. So either she doesn't know the law, she's lying or...............she knew she'd be able to charge the hospital more for killing the geese AND removing the nest, than for just removing the nest. In the end, it's just a business - a government-sponsored wildlife killing business - everything else is secondary, including common sense and compassion.
Monmouth County Health Department: We called their bluff.
Monmouth County, NJ. -- In mid-January, a meeting on Canada geese was held at Brookdale Community College. While the event was open to the public, it was not openly advertised, making registration difficult for anyone not part of the targeted audience. The public was made aware of the meeting at the last minute - an announcement in the local paper appeared Sunday, the day before the registration (and $20 fee) was due. A post office worker observed flyers being thrown onto a post office table the same day the registration form was due!
Betty Butler, head of the Coalition's New Jersey chapter, was in attendance and noted that the event's participants were mostly maintenence workers, groundskeepers and the like. Only a few concerned citizens (e.g., homeowners, etc.) were present.
Presentations were made by a variety of government wildlife agencies - exclusively those that that profit from the killing of wildlife. Indeed, the general theme of the meeting was clear: to move toward the killing of geese. Interestingly, it was mentioned several times that, since such killings are unpopular with the general public, publicity must be avoided at all costs. This explains the willful attempt to limit attendance to like-minded people.
In attendance was Lester Jargowsky, Public Health Coordinator for Monmouth County. In a situation that can only be described as completely predictable, he pandered to the would-be goose killers in the audience by suggesting that the geese and their droppings were a public health threat. One of the local papers picked up on this by running a story entitled "Goosebumps over health risk: Geese causing a health scare over flocks, feces" (Asbury Park Press 1/19/98). Of course, it is well established that Canada geese do not pose a threat to public health [see our section on Canada geese and public health] - such tactics are used intentionally to create the illusion that geese are a more serious "problem" than just a nuisance.
The Coalition challenged the Monmouth County Health Department to provide scientific documentation showing that the geese in question were truly a health threat. We called their bluff with an open records request.
The response was exactly what we expected: The Monmouth County Health Department has no evidence to support their accusation that Canada geese are a public health threat.
They were just bluffing.
Another Charity Says, "NO" to Dead Geese
Clarkstown, NY -- In 1996, the supervisor of Clarkstown, NY defied the compassionate will of the public and killed 256 geese that were taken from town parks.
In order to offset the bad publicity, he announced that the dead geese would be given to the poor and homeless through a food pantry called "People to People" of Nyack, NY. Most residents recognized this maneuver as a publicity gimmick. Others described the plan as a form of socio-economic discrimination; the upper middle-class was seen as trying to get away with committing an unnecessary act of violence against wildlife while hiding the evidence in the bowels of the poor and desperate.
The Coalition pointed out that these geese were unfit for human consumption, as they regularly fed on lawns contaminated with pesticides and herbicides. A week or two before this plan was to be executed, pesticide warning flags were seen (and photographed) posted in the same parks from which geese fed and would eventually be killed. The Coalition issued a "Notice of Dangerous Condition" to the town. This legal document prevents the town from escaping liability should anyone become ill from ingesting the dead geese. This effort forced the town to have the goose flesh tested for toxins.
The NYS Department of Health determined that the dead geese contained unsafe levels of lead and could not be served to humans. (The supervisor then tried to give the flesh to a local zoo - they rejected his offer.)
Due to public pressure from the 1996 killings, "People to People" refused to have anything to do with any geese killed in 1997.
Even though geese killed in 1997 had the same levels of lead as those killed the year before, the NYS Dept. of Health approved the goose flesh for consumption by the elderly (although not by children). An organization called "Delaware Opportunities" agreed to accept the flesh and distribute it. While one senior center voted unanimously to reject the dead geese, an upstate NY newspaper reported that some of the dead geese were served and eaten by senior citizens.
It was recently announced that due to public pressure, Delaware Opportunities would NOT get involved with distributing goose flesh this year. John Eberhardt, the organization's Director, said that even though around 200 people had eaten the geese from last year's kill (and that he still has 100 lbs. left), he "couldn't take another round of constant phone calls from people wanting to know who was going to eat the dead geese, where it would be served, and people expressing concern over the moral issue." One reporter said it best, "It just wasn't worth the wrath" of the public.
While the town supervisor has announced that he will once again try to kill geese in Clarkstown, the plan's unacceptability continues to grow.
Clarkstown Supervisor Lies Again!
Clarkstown, NY -- No one intimately involved with the issue was surprised when two different reporters, one from the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Company), told the Coalition this week that the infamous goose-killing town supervisor of Clarkstown, NY, was going to kill Canada geese again this Summer. A press release from the Coalition earlier this week forced the supervisor to publicly admit that he intends to kill more geese this year.
Last year, after the killing of 201 Canada geese including a number of goslings, the same supervisor, trying to defuse public outrage, said that there would be no killing in 1998. No one believed him.
In 1996, despite the Coalition having presented the supervisor with information on proven non-lethal methods of goose control and the scientific reasons why killing was not going to solve the town's alleged goose problems, the supervisor proceeded to kill 256 geese. To the embarrassment of the town supervisor and the NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC), several weeks after ALL the geese from several town parks had been removed and slaughtered, others moved in to fill the vacant habitat. Independent observers reported that there were more geese in the parks after the killing than before. (This is a known biological phenomenon. The population of a species of wildlife will adapt to a given area depending on various factors, including territoriality. When all members are removed, the territorial structure is destroyed and the population surges as pioneers move in to reestablish a community.) The end result was the needless loss of life and a huge expense to the taxpayers - around $25,000 - with no practical outcome.
The following year (1997), despite massive public outcry and growing opposition to goose killing from public leaders within the County (e.g., the Rockland County Executive; the Town Supervisor of Orangetown, an adjoining town), 201 additional geese were slaughtered. Once again, the brutal killings had no practical effect. Kings Park, a centrally located park within Clarkstown that averaged about 30 geese per day before the killing, found itself inundated with 80-126 geese per day several weeks later. Thus, the waste of taxpayer dollars soared to nearly $50,000.
With wildlife biologists at the NYS DEC looking incompetent after having issued permits for, and recommending, the completely ineffective killings, they sought to discredit the non-lethal methods being demanded by the public. The DEC tried to bash the well-established effectiveness of Border Collies for controlling geese by saying that the dogs "just move the problem somewhere else." They desperately set out to try to prove this assertion in a Border Collie experiment in the Fall of 1997. (Interestingly, this experiment took place right before the Supervisor's bid for re-election this past November.) Using numbered neck collars as markers, the DEC set out to track the location of the displaced geese. To their dismay, they were unable to prove their point. According to the Rockland Journal-News, most of the geese just could not be accounted for. They certainly weren't found causing "problems" in other areas as the DEC had predicted. Furthermore, at the conclusion of the month-long trial, the Rockland Journal-News reported that for the first time since this issue emerged, "problem" areas were essentially goose-free - an objective that could not be achieved by killing.
Logic dictates that the town's next step should be to implement the use of Border Collies on a regular basis while phasing in, over several years, other methods such as less goose-friendly forms of landscaping. Of course, the supervisor has vowed to continue the needless, costly, and ineffective killings.
The Coalition vows to continue to fight this malicious and irrational behavior harder than ever before.
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