Originally published: May 14, 2013 4:25 PM
Updated: May 14, 2013 10:15 PM
By SCOTT EIDLER - Newsday
Photo credit: Kevin P Coughlin | A Canada Goose in a ravine along the shore of Middle Bay. Kelly Hamilton and Michelle Gibbons from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation performed a survey of the waterfowl inhabitating Middle Bay. (May 9, 2011)
Residents and wildlife advocates spoke out at an unofficial hearing following North Hempstead's town board meeting, calling on town leaders to reconsider a contract to euthanize its invasive resident geese population.
To loud cheering, Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals, pleaded with board members, saying: "You don't want North Hempstead to be known as a town that slaughters its wildlife."
Theresa Pratt, 48, of Manhasset held up a sign with pictures of young goslings. It read: "Geese feel, fear pain and panic just like humans."
Other residents booed loudly and said "Get out" as Phil Weiden, 27, of Greenvale suggested the idea of moving some of the geese to zoos.
Afterward, Councilman Angelo Ferrara told the boisterous crowd: "If you don't stop, I think we will end the hearing."
Town Supervisor Jon Kaiman addressed the board beforehand, acknowledging "a great deal of concern" about the plan to kill the birds. "The question for us over the years is how do we balance the wildlife, the birds that are part of our community and the hundreds of pounds of feces that they drop?"
Later, Kaiman said, "If there's a way to resolve this with some other methods, we're open to it, but we need to clean our parks."
Several animal-rights groups were represented, including the international Friends of Animals and the Malverne-based Long Island Orchestrating for Nature.
John Di Leonardo, 25, president of LION, said the group brought about 10 members.
"We're very disturbed that they would resort to legal slaughter. As soon as this next flock flies over, they're just going to see this as suitable ground," he said, adding, "It's just permanent until the next flock flies over."
He suggested dealing with the problem with technology such as machinery that sweeps away droppings and turns them into compost, and OvoControl G, an oral contraceptive made especially for Canada geese.
Last month, the town board unanimously approved the contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Wildlife Services. Before euthanizing the geese, USDA wildlife specialists will survey town parks and decide whether the town has exhausted every other means of getting rid of the geese.
The USDA says its preferred method of euthanasia is using carbon dioxide.
Currently, no Long Island towns euthanize geese, but others, including North Hempstead, have other tactics: oiling eggs to prevent them from hatching; harassment, by chasing geese with border collies or workers in kayaks; fines and signs discouraging people from feeding the birds.
One group, Goose Watch NYC, which opposes citywide cullings, has taken to social media to drum up opposition to the plan. By Tuesday, an online petition had drawn more than 500 signatures.
Viviana Russell, a town councilwoman, said Monday that "We're always open to listening to other suggestions."
She said she was "comfortable" with the plan to eradicate the geese, which calls for them to be processed and donated to food pantries. "It's not like we're just killing off the animals; they're going to be used for food," she said.