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Group stands on guard for geese throughout city parks

Photo by Steve Mosco

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture wildlife services, geese in city parks will be rounded up in order to keep them out of the path of passenger planes.

By Steve Mosco

Photo by Steve Mosco
Edita Birnkrant, New York director of Friends of Animals, joined GooseWatch NYC to stand guard over birds in city parks.

Photo by Steve Mosco
A gosling takes some of its first steps in Rosedale's Brookville Park.

The roar of giant passenger planes landing at John F. Kennedy International Airport continuously interrupts the relative quiet of a fresh water pond in Brookville Park in Rosedale.

Residents have lived with the low-flying aircraft for years and so have the geese and other waterfowl using the park to feed and rear their young.

But recent bird strikes at John F. Kennedy International and Westchester airports have put lawmakers at odds with the city's avian population, making birds like the ones at Brookville Park targets of legislation aimed at easing restrictions on the culling of the animals.

Standing in the way is GooseWatch NYC, a group formed in Brooklyn's Prospect Park in 2011 to protect geese from being rounded up ' and potentially slaughtered ' by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services.

The group recently created an emergency alert network that would mobilize local members to visit culling sites where they could document any goose roundups.

'The roundups of Canada geese in New York City are financed by taxpayers and conducted by a federal agency in city parks, which are community spaces,' said David Karopkin, of GooseWatch NYC. 'The public has a right to transparency of governmental operations, and at a minimum to view video documentation of the treatment of Canada geese during the roundups in order to judge for themselves whether they support such extreme measures. An observer should be allowed to attend the roundup and removal operations.'

Members of the group plan to document goose roundups in more than 15 city parks, including Brookville, Bowne, Baisley Pond, Kissena and Springfield parks in Queens; Inwood Hill, Morningside, Riverside and Central parks in Manhattan; East River State Park in Brooklyn; ; and Willowbrook and Clove Lake parks in Staten Island.

Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals, an animal advocacy group, said she plans to do more than just document the removal of geese from area parks.

'The position of Friends of Animals is a bit different from GooseWatch because I am personally willing to disrupt and prevent the USDA from completing the roundups at Brookville Park, or any other park where I witness a roundup occurring,' she said, adding she would use noisemakers to thwart the roundups. 'I would not sit idly by while my tax dollars enabled a brutal and senseless attack on a species of wildlife that should be protected in our parks.'

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently introduced federal legislation that would expedite the removal of Canada geese from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge near JFK.

The geese would be removed during their molting period ' between June and August ' when the birds lose their feathers and cannot fly. According to Carol Bannerman, public affairs specialist for the USDA wildlife services, removal of geese could involve lethal procedures such as shooting or gassing the animals.

'There is simply no reason to slaughter these animals,' said Birnkrant. 'The city could modify the habitat so that it is not as attractive to geese. They can take preventative measures to ensure the safety of both airplane passengers and geese.'

Birnkrant also said a trash transfer station currently being built in the flight path of LaGuardia Airport flies in the face of safety, as it will attract birds and place airline passengers at risk.

'They are going to attract birds with that garbage dump,' she said, referring to the North Shore Marine Transfer Station. 'Lawmakers are talking out of both sides of their mouth.'

Last month, Capt. Chesley 'Sully' Sullenberger, the US Airways pilot who safely guided a passenger plane into the Hudson River following a bird strike in 2009, lent his voice to a radio ad campaign denouncing the construction of the trash transfer station.

Neither Gillibrand's office nor the USDA returned requests for comment as of press time.

Wilhelmina Kelly, of Springfield Gardens, was walking in Brookville Park with her friend Anthony Wilkins when a GooseWatch member handed her a flier explaining the potential goose roundups.

'It's so unfair,' she said. 'This is the bird's habitat. It's like a trap.'

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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