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Let's Control Ourselves Instead of the Canada Geese

May 23, 2005 | Geese

By Priscilla Feral
Opinion Greenwich Comment, Greenwich Time Greenwich, CT
(Published: May 17, 2005)

The town of Greenwich is in the midst of deciding whether to kill Canada geese. It has already applied for permission to round up 200 geese and goslings in late June, at Bruce Park, at Byram Park, at Binney Park, at Roger Sherman Baldwin Park, and at the Griffith E. Harris Memorial Golf Course. A Friends of Animals representative participated in a meeting on the 11th of May to decide the birds' fate. After our representative insisted that lethal responses be removed from discussion, we were not invited to join a committee that will continue the talks. Yet other animal welfare groups -- groups that did not object to the idea that potentially lethal methods might remain as a backup plan -- were invited to join that commitee.

That committee should know that roundups are a nasty business. At dawn, cordoned off from the public view, workers separate goslings from parents, and corral the birds into pens. Videos of Seattle and New Jersey kills show United States Department of Agriculture workers forcing bound, panicked geese into portable gas chambers. In some cases, geese have been killed by gunshot or by hand. Predictably, geese repopulate the area over the months to come.

If we think there are too many geese in our midst, there are better answers. With thought, planning, and effort, Greenwich parks can be ecologically restored, to address the bird imbalance naturally.

Experts report that increased Canada goose nesting in the northeast signifies ecological degradation, caused not by geese, but by human landscaping trends. That's because adult geese like the flat surfaces we humans build. Those surfaces, with their open views, help geese to identify intruders and escape predators, especially during the nesting season.

Thus, experts recommend landscape modification as one of the most effective and environmentally sound methods for reducing Canada goose nesting and feeding. Habitat modification doesn't turn a park into a forest; it simply means strategic placement of bushes, shrubs, small meadows to block line of sight geese require for safety from predators. (Friends of Animals will be presenting landscaping guides to Greenwich selectmen.)

Unfortunately, Greenwich parks supervisor Joseph Siciliano and Selectmen Lash and Crumbine continue to pooh-pooh the idea of landscape changes, saying simply that Greenwich prefers its parks manicured. Yet as long as the parks remain unmodified, there will be geese.

Signs in parks, advising residents to allow nesting geese ample space, and not to feed them, can prevent perceived conflicts. Parents should be advised to instruct young children not to chase geese, or to get too close.

Sometimes the answers are as simple as housekeeping: raking golf courses, and proper, regular clean-up of business parks and marinas, athletic fields near low-lying waterways, and housing projects. For beaches, local maintenance professionals should simply rake the grounds.

Over the years, numerous experts -- even experts at the very agencies that propose killing projects as an easy first resort -- have made it clear that geese pose no health problems beyond those posed by other waste matter; all can be cleaned up together. Indeed, unless attacked or threatened, geese pose no threat to humans at all. Geese will bluff to protect their nests, but unprovoked physical attacks are rare.

In short, if we insist on creating an environment that attracts geese, it's our responsibility to maintain that property in a way that enables people to get through the two months of the year that geese are flightless and congregate there. By late summer, they're moving about and people stop complaining. That people are so intolerant of several weeks of goose droppings -- given the pressure the high human population has on the environment, mystifies us.

Concerned readers, please do call Greenwich officials to unveil the pressure group behind any goose-killing agenda, and suggest that people learn to share the landscape with Canada geese, swans and ducks.

Further, please tell Greenwich officials that the destruction of geese in one area where they congregate encourages other geese to occupy the temporary vacuum. The result is a myopic cycle of violence which we should oppose before it begins.

We can learn to live with geese. It's time to get away from a consumer's approach to native animals with whom we share territory, selecting which species we'll tolerate, when and how many. This results in cycles of exterminations, largely carried out away from the public eye. It is up to the majority to know, and to say "No."


Please lets unite to save the geese; the winged creatures of God. What peace they bring me as I watch them. One is always watching to protect the flock from danger. When they want to fly I have seen the leader move his head sideways and upwards in a motion that others respond to in kind. They communicate more thoroughly with each other than humans; they are a joy to watch. They protect their young; better than many humans. Humanity has much to learn from the winged creatures of the earth. Animals and humans are meant to live together; to help each other. They need our help now; lets raise our voices together.

Priscilla, Thank you for standing up for nonlethal methods of dealing with the geese. Shame on the welfarist groups for their usual complicity in the killing of animals. Perhaps they need to learn what an advocate is supposed to do. I hope your description of how these "roundups" are conducted will open some eyes (and hearts). I think people would rather not hear about these things. It's like the killing at city shelters --if someone else does the deed, and the public doesn't have to hear about it, well, then, it is accepted by the citizens. Shame! I've been involved with stopping bird kills, and, with no exception, excuses such as health issues were used to justify the proposed kill. Threats of, for example, histoplasmosis, are popular to panic people into an us-vs-them mentality. Of course, people aren't told that only old dried droppings that are removed in such a way to cause a person to inhale the dust are the danger, not the droppings seen naturally on the ground. As you have outlined in your article, people who know about these things report that killing does not solve the problem since, without habitat manipulation, more birds will move into the space created by the killing. Please keep us informed with updates on this situation. Chris Kelly

You do not get it. And you never will. The trouble is that you do not live in reality. It is most obvious that the vast majority of your group is made up of ladies that do not and never had to work or live in reality. The problem is not where the geese are but that there are far too many. You can mve them around but there are still too many. More than the land can support. It is that simple. I also realize that none of this will even be heard by you, you will get together and discuss among yourselves with your limited dealings in reality and laugh at my ignorance. But as I said you will never understand reality. Seems like the underlying theme here is the lack of reality that you operate with. *[Blog editors’ note: That's right, Scot, we don't "get it." "It" being the prejudicial bias against geese and, apparently, women as well. In the essay "Of Mice and Men," Catharine MacKinnon wrote about this imagined "reality": "Both women and animals are seen as needing to be subdued and controlled. Both are imagined as dangerously powerful so must be kept powerless; if not locked up and kept down and in place, and killed when they step out, they will take over, overrun civilization, make chaos, end the known world."]*

Scot, Interesting how animals lived and evolved eons before humans walked the earth. Reality is that we share the earth with other animals. I know our technology (large brain) and opposable thumbs (ability to easily pull a trigger) give us that extra "edge," but when people say "there are too many" of this or that species, I wonder if they mean too many as it would apply to human survival or too many as they might impact on those human-made "natural" open spaces such as parks, yards, etc. And, btw, birds own the sky --killing those occupying a less than desirable area will light up vacancy signs for more to move in --habitat manipulation (making the area undesirable) is a lasting solution. Maybe we humans could just learn to live in cooperation with other species instead of jumping to lethal "solutions" every time we bump heads. Oh, and your "ladies" reference reminds me of the connection between the various mentalities of hateful intolerance. Chris Kelly

Regarding Catharine MacKinnon's statement, “Both women and animals are seen as needing to be subdued and controlled. Both are imagined as dangerously powerful so must be kept powerless; if not locked up and kept down and in place, and killed when they step out, they will take over, overrun civilization, make chaos, end the known world.” Notice how a leading newspaper frames the issue of bear hunting plans in New Jersey. The article “DEP chief now favors bear hunt” on the home page of the June 16 Philadelphia Inquirer, adds the following subheading: “Reversing his position of a year ago, **New Jersey's environmental chief announced yesterday that he would support a fall bear hunt to control a population that has increasingly terrified residents of the northwestern corner of the state.”** Lee Hall
Friends of Animals

I am so upset right now. I live in the Incorporated Village of Brightwaters, NY located in Suffolk County. I was just informed that over 100 Canadian Geese were taken out of the lakes this morning and will be destroyed. This just sickens me. Many of the geese had young ones that most likely are now without their parents. Any suggestions. The residents are livid right now. This is so wrong that this can happen. Very sad, Carol Friends of Animals thanks Carol Bondy for alerting us to the Brightwaters goose round-up. We have independently investigated this matter through several agencies within the New York DEC, whose Suffolk County-based waterfowl biologist is not aware of a "mandate" to round-up and destroy geese. (Brightwaters trustee Carmine Alfano is claiming that the round-up was "mandated" by state statute. In addition, we've independently learned that Brightwaters has rounded-up, and gassed, over 50 geese. More information should be forthcoming. Susan Russell, Information Director

I cannot believe what I am reading. The killing of these poor geese because "there are too many" is absolutely ridiculous. These birds need somewhere to live just like humans. It's not as if the geese are tearing down trees and land to build businesses and houses like humans are doing everyday for the sake of human enjoyment and monetary profit. I happen to live on a pond where canadian geese as well as ducks come by every year and there are dozens of them. I've gone outside in the morning to find geese droppings all over my yard. A nuisance? Yes. So I clean it up. Big deal. We are fortunate enough to be able throw it away and have it carried off to the landfill. Surely they would do the same if they could. They are wonderful to watch and have around and the thought of them being rounded up and killed is appauling. We should be ashamed of ourselves. Killing itself at all to an innocent being is terrible and unnecessary. Where is the proof of danger in there being geese around? I'd like to see that. If some humans weren't so selfish and left some land for the wild animals there wouldn't be such a fuss. Keep up the good work Friends of Animals. Penny

Sadly 13 more geese were killed two days after the first round-up in Brightwaters, NY. My local paper made a correction regarding the "mandating" killing. In my opinion nobody wants to take the blame. I also had a story about the poor geese in another local paper. It made the front page. Go to key in Brightwaters. The kicker to this is I found a brief history of Brightwaters. The founder placed geese and ducks in the ponds way back when. Now they have the geese killed? Makes no sense to me. Carol B

In the past several days,I have personally lived the nightmare of innocent geese being taken away by the USDA.I live on the Potomic River in Maryland, surrounded by beautiful wildlife.A nearby housing development removed approximately 65 Canadian geese from their golf course. I personally think more were removed.They had the USDA come in and take them away.This was done without trying other ways of removal.A family of geese ,that raise their young in my yard every year,have not been seen since the removal.Just because a few golfers complained,these beautiful animals were taken from their home,and separated from their families.Our front yard went from families of geese flying over and stopping by, to complete emptiness.My heart is broken.I only pray that the family of geese I have grown to love is in a nearby creek and evaded disaster.

Once again I have been informed by a credible source that there will be another massive slaughter of Canadian geese in the village of Brightwaters in Suffolk County, NY What can I do to prevent this from happening again? The village officials slaughtered over 50 geese last year. Very sad.


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