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Banishing the Birds: 800 Geese Rounded Up Near NYC Airports

Friday, June 18, 2010

USDA Wildlife technicians are on a wild goose chase in New York City 's parks and waterways this June and July. They're rounding up 800 geese within a seven-mile radius of LaGuardia and JFK airports in an effort to reduce the number of bird strikes.

“We’re reducing the resident Canada Goose population in New York City to reduce hazards to aviation and protect human interests,” says Lee Humberg, district supervisor for USDA Wildlife Services in New York .

A direct bird strike to a jet plane’s engines can cause them to fail. That’s what happened to Flight 1549 last January, when Captain Sully Sullenberger was forced to land an American Airlines Airbus in the Hudson River. The plane was brought down by a flock of geese—the same type of birds officials from the Port Authority, the city Department of Environmental Protection and USDA are teaming up to curtail.

The size and flight patterns of the Canada Goose mean it’s involved in a lot of bird strikes.

“They are an extremely large bird, eight to 12 pounds. And they fly in large flocks. Many times you'll see birds, eight to 10 all the way up to 30 or 40-plus birds flying together,” says John Ostrom, chairman of Bird Strike Committee USA, an organization that tries to reduce collisions between animals and aircraft.

The USDA technicians—all of whom have wildlife science or wildlife management degrees—have found geese in industrial parks and on the roofs of buildings. From time to time, they travel by kayak to harass the birds back onto dry land.

That’s when the round-up begins.

“We will set up a corral pen, and try and push the birds. We basically will herd them into the pen,” Humberg says. “Then we will enter the corral with them and pick them up and gather them and put them in poultry crates.”

This is molting season for geese, so the birds cannot flee by spreading their wings, honking and flying away. Once the birds are rounded up, they're driven to an undisclosed location by pickup truck and euthanized with gas.

There is nowhere to relocate the geese, according to a USDA spokesperson.

Last summer, USDA technicians removed 1,200 birds from the city. According to the DEP, last summer's efforts reduced the geese population near LaGuardia airport by 80 percent.

So far this year, approximately half of the 800 geese have been removed.

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