By Sue Russell
As reported by WNBC News last week, Union County officials
truncated the planned gassing of 2,700 Canada Geese in the face of
strong public disapproval. USDA workers were shown throwing terrified
birds into portable gas chambers. That didn’t stop Colts Neck, which
gassed hundreds of geese in secret, unbeknownst to its own residents,
within the next few days. Once considering gassing, Avon-by-the-Sea
officials are now inquiring about non-lethal programs..
Carbon Dioxide causes breathing so rapid it becomes
unbearable. The chambers are outlawed in New Jersey.
Non-lethal proves effective; killing does not
The proved success of integrated non-lethal management
like that pioneered by GeesePeace, a Washington, D.C.-based organization,
renders kill programs ineffective, inhumane and counterproductive.
Canada geese can re-populate elimination areas within a matter of
weeks. Killing leads to an endless cycle of more killing, more controversy
and more community division. The GeesePeace program works nationwide.
It brings communities together. It is cost effective.
Last year, Senator Charles E. Schumer sponsored a highly
successful GeesePeace pilot project in Nassau County. “Thanks to
Senator Schumer’s efforts, the assistance of GeesePeace and the diligence
of our [staff] , we have enjoyed spectacular success in humanely
convincing the Canada geese to leave Eisenhower Park,” said Doreen
Banks, commissioner of Recreation, Parks and Support for Nassau County.
Commissioner Banks wants the program countywide. Senator Schumer
wants it throughout Long Island.
GeesePeace, formed by former USDA staffer David Feld,
first explains non-lethal methodology, goose behavior and biology
to affected parties: municipalities, park and recreation or school
officials, then encourages their participation and trains responsible
personnel. GeesePeace prefers a regional
approach, getting many affected areas working together. The essence
of the program is redirection identifying areas, where, by agreement,
the birds will be tolerated, drawing geese away from areas where
they are not wanted, modifying habitat so they won't return. If needed,
egg addling is employed. The program still works.
The gas-chamber killing machine
on the back of a truck in Seattle, WA. Photo courtesy of www.givegeeseachance.com/images
“We had to gas. We’ve tried non-lethal and nothing
To qualify for a kill permit, applicants must first
show that they have tried non-lethal means. For some townships bent
upon killing as an anticipated final solution, the try is often pro
forma, or simply incompetent. Colts Neck received an offer of assistance
last year and never responded. Even when well-intentioned, non-lethal
techniques are often used improperly, at the wrong time of year,
or in the wrong combination. Others are victims of a sprouting cottage
industry of suburban wildlife “experts” -- many self-declared, off-duty
officials, part-time hunters; some more qualified than others. I’ve
personally witnessed exclusion wires (used to keep geese away from
a pond) installed during the molt, when geese can’t fly. The birds
were forced to resort to feeding in the very neighborhood that wanted
them gone. Complaints skyrocketed. [Editor’s Note: Exclusion fences
must be installed prior to the nesting season (about mid-March) while
the geese are capable of finding another nest location.]
Who promotes lethal programs?
USDA's Wildlife Services (formerly Animal Damage Control,
widely known for burning and gassing coyote pups out West, hence
the name change), has re-tooled for suburban markets by ordering
portable carbon dioxide chambers and specially outfitted trucks.
Wildlife Services describes itself -- and markets its services --
as a “business.” Employees are paid though kill contracts like the
$20,000 agreement in Union County. In western states, workers are
paid by the sale of pelts from animals they trap. USDA in effect
advertises the service and agitates for kills by describing the birds
as a "health-threat." All in-house, all very effective.
Colts Neck officials admit to "enrolling in the program offered” by
USDA. New Jersey’s USDA Pittstown office is particularly, even aggressively,
pro-kill. New York’s actually agreed to the Long Island program.
The Division of Fish and Wildlife and the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service , two agencies dependent on the shrinking hunting
subculture and funded by gun taxes, are also opposed to non-lethal
approaches. New Jersey’s Division of Fish and Wildlife is further
funded by hunters’ license fees. “Many wildlife professionals,” wrote
a New Jersey hunting columnist in 2002, “have expressed concerns
that [non-lethal ] techniques are being publicized by animal rights
groups to eventually replace sport hunting,”
In the mid-1950s, USFWS re-introduced hand-reared Canada
geese at Brigantine National Wildlife Refuge. Pinioned adults were
used as live decoys to lure migratory geese for hunting. Artificial
nests encouraged breeding. Due to these and other programs, “substantial
increase in usage of the refuge areas by flight geese occurred.” The
birds showed no migratory behavior and were the progenitors of today’s
so-called resident goose population. Last week, over 500 Canada geese
were rounded-up and gassed at the Brigantine refuge. Migratory Canada
geese, black ducks and other waterfowl can barely sustain sport hunting
pressure. Wildlife agencies maintain what are called “waterfowl production
areas” to meet hunter demand. Both so-called _resident” and migratory
Canada geese inhabit these areas. In most production areas, indeed
in most national wildlife refuges, fox, raccoon and other predators
are routinely trapped. According to New York’s Wildlife Resources
Cooperative Extension, geese genetically inclined to travel greater
distances south may have been steadily hunted out of the population.
Cruel treatment of a goose
before being killed. Photo courtesy of www.givegeeseachance.com/images
Geese and public health
Dr. Timothy Ford of the Harvard School of Public Health
(author, Microbiological Safety of Drinking Water, United States
and Global Perspective) and New Jersey’s Department of Health note
that geese pose no significant health risk to humans. The respected
Ford is adamant: “In my mind, there is no possibility that the Canada
goose will ever be a major route of infection. To suggest otherwise
is utterly ludicrous, and you can quote me.” The Department of Health
points out that geese are often mistakenly blamed for beach closings.
Toddlers (giardia is spread most often in the day care setting,)
and households pets pose a much greater health threat than Canada
Needed: Leadership, and a statewide GeesePeace training
program in New Jersey
Sen. Schumer is ushering management into the 21st century.
It is humane. It works. Everyone wins. New Jersey needs a statewide
GeesePeace training program. Our elected officials should make that
so. New Jersey needs a Charles Schumer.
Center for Animal Protection
Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese
P.O. Box 161
Bradley Beach, NJ 07720
[email protected] www.centerforanimalprotection.org (in