Patrolling a NYC Bird "Refuge" to Protect Canada Geese from Killer USDA Agents
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, the only one of its kind in New York City, can no longer be called a “refuge.”
The meaning of the word has been forever perverted from the moment USDA Wildlife Service agents invaded the sanctity of this so-called refuge in 2012 to capture, stuff into crates and then slaughter Canada geese and their young during their flightless, molting phase in the summer when they are unable to fly away to escape.
Since 2012 over 1000 Canada geese have been massacred at Jamaica Bay—something Friends of Animals considers a crime. Sadly, there are under 100 left at the refuge this summer, yet the USDA seems intent on exterminating them all.
That’s why FoA’s Campaigns Director Edita Birnkrant patrolled Jamaica Bay with members of GooseWatch NYC this week to protect and defend the geese in anticipation of the USDA coming in the very early morning hours as they have the last two summers to target the few remaining geese.
The Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge—part of Gateway National Recreation Area—brags about being one of the “most significant bird sanctuaries in the Northeastern United States and one of the best places in New York City to observe migrating species. With more than 330 bird species—nearly half the species in the Northeast—sighted at the refuge over the last 25 years, it is a must-see for avian enthusiasts.”
This refuge covers 9,000 acres of open bay, saltmarsh, mudflats, upland fields and woods. So why are Canada geese under attack instead of being protected, as should be mandated in a refuge which should be a safe haven for all creatures? And which birds will be next on the hit list once the USDA wipes out Canada geese?
Confronting the killers at the scene of the crime is necessary to send a strong message that New Yorkers and Friends of Animals won’t stand idly by while such atrocities occur.
The NY Times featured a story last summer, which included footage sent to us by a witness, of Canada geese being stuffed into crates and loaded onto trucks headed for slaughter by USDA Wildlife Service agents.
Friends of Animals was quoted by the Times condemning the roundup.
Edita Birnkrant, Campaigns Director for FoA described, “I arrived at the refuge this week before 6 a.m. on July 1 and July 2, joined by others willing to defend geese from the atrocious actions of the USDA. I refused to stand by as NYC’s only bird “refuge” gets plundered again by hired killers in the one place they should be guaranteed absolute protection. The refuge is very peaceful and beautiful in the early morning just as the sun has risen. But I knew the peace could be over any moment the USDA entered with trucks stacked with plastic crates ready to be stuffed with geese.
We patrolled the refuge on foot during the hours most roundups occur and in key areas we knew USDA agents would enter to target the geese. I had noisemakers to disrupt a roundup if it occurred and a camera to document. I was fully prepared to get arrested by confronting USDA agents to take direct action necessary to prevent the crimes against geese to occur again at Jamaica Bay this summer.
National Park Service police confronted us early morning on July 1 and told us we could not hold our posters protesting the geese killings without a permit. They were well aware why we were there and we’re sure the USDA was also aware—we knew we were being watched, and the USDA knew they were being watched by us. That didn’t stop me from placing our posters condemning the killing at the entrance sign to Jamaica Bay and posting pictures of us holding our posters to social media.
We sprang into action when two kayaks with government workers were spotted entering the East Pond that I was patrolling on June 2 at around 8:45am—a pond filled with over 60 Canada geese, swans, osprey, egrets and other birds. Kayaks are used to herd geese unto land during roundups. We jumped into cars to reach the trailhead that leads to where the kayaks were launched, then ran down the long trail to find a government truck parked near the water. The kayaks were out of sight so we continued patrolling the area to ensure a roundup was not occurring. We left the refuge once we were assured that a roundup was not occurring and that the geese were unharmed.
The remaining geese at the refuge are likely safe this summer, but it’s clear that the desired number of geese at Jamaica Bay and throughout city parks is zero. What will happen next summer? We intend to change this policy for all of NYC parks and for Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. Only then can the sanctity of the word “refuge” return to Jamaica Bay.
FoA organized a large demonstration at the Port Authority of NY/NJ on June 26th to protest the Port Authority’s key role in the roundup and slaughter of Canada geese throughout New York City parks for the past 6 summers. Over 5,000 geese have been wiped out since 2009, with the main justification being given to “protect air travel safety.”
Friends of Animals promotes proven, non-violent strategies for co-existing with the geese we share the landscape with. Killing geese won’t make airplanes safer—but landscape and habitat modification to deter geese from certain areas will. This is documented in FoA’s Canada Goose Habitat Modification Manual. Bird radar technology is currently in use by the US Military and other airports around the world, including Seattle and Israel.
Why are we not using this valuable technology in New York City? Alerting pilots to flocks or birds that could cause a potential hazard to their planes is a common sense response—slaughtering every bird in the sky is not. In March, the New York Post reported that The Port Authority killed 20,000 animals over the past two years, including birds deemed threatened or endangered.
NY state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Queens) said, “I stand with Friends of Animals to say that the City must promote non-violent methods to ensure that we co-exist with these birds rather than slaughter them. It is our responsibility to ensure aviation safety while advocating for humane treatment of New York’s Canada geese population.”
1. Call Mayor Bill De Blasio’s office directly at 311 or 212.NEWYORK and ask him to put an immediate end to the slaughter of Canada geese throughout New York City.
2. Contact Laura Francoeur, Chief Wildlife Biologist, The Port Authority of NY and NJ, JFK International Airport at 718 .244.3773 or firstname.lastname@example.org and ask her to cancel the goose-killing contract with the USDA.
3. New York City residents should contact their NYC Council Member and ask them to take action to stop the Canada Geese killings and speak out to protect our wildlife. Click here to find your Council Member.
Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Official:
Contact Jennifer T. Nersesian, Superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area at 718.354.4668 or Jen_Nersesian@nps.gov and politely demand an end to the attack on Canada Geese at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.