Sunday, August 2, 2015

The Mirror -- The Death of One Lion to Reflect the Whole


 


Sometimes, it takes the tragic death of one to draw attention to the whole.
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A media firestorm broke out this past week when it was learned that an American hunter, lured a beloved lion name Cecil from a protected African reserve in order to shoot with an arrow, stalk, finally kill with a gun and remove the lion's head as "trophy."
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Outrage over the incident has known little boundary, particularly on the Internet where some now decry "mob rule" and try to arouse sympathy for the wealthy dentist as a "victim" of cyber-bullying and social "persecution." Others try to deflect from the actual issue of animal tyranny to human controversies such as abortion.
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Offer me no Kleenex for this guy who not only carried out crimes against animals, but premeditated and fully planned them. Worse, he took pleasure and pride in them. 
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If Walter Palmer has been "dehumanized," in social media, it is because he dehumanized himself, and in the process brought the rest of humanity down with him.
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The brutal and unjustifiable slaying of Cecil represents the mere tip of the iceberg in terms of what our species is doing to the other beings of the world, whether they still hold on in the plains of Africa, the forests of our countrysides, our parks or our oceans. (This is not even to mention the oppressive existences forced on billions of animals raised and slaughtered for meat.)
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In the white-toothed, grinning smile of Walter Palmer, we have been compelled to finally hold up a mirror and the image is not pretty. Palmer is, after all, "one of us" and he has taken great pleasure and ego in blowing away the rare wildlife of our world in order to gloat and mount heads on walls. -- Wildlife that in many cases, won't be around for our grandchildren to enjoy and relate to.
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No, not a pretty image for self-recognition at all, but rather a very painful one of narcissism, pride, gluttony and greed -- indeed all part of the "seven deadly sins."   

It is this self-recognition as a species that confronts us and now appears to be the underlying reason for the outrage expressed in hundreds of thousands of comments to social media. It seems people are finally demanding justice and accountability for at least, some crimes against the other animals of this planet. Truth is, that it is painful to see ourselves in the gloating face of the world's now most infamous animal slaughterer. 

Put simply, Walter Palmer is every one of us and reflects, not our self-pride in species, but rather our shame.
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But, will justice actually occur?
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Because Zimbabwe is known for human rights violations, it is highly unlikely Palmer will be extradited back to the country to face justice and possible conviction for illegal poaching. However, he could be charged for violation of poaching laws in this country since intent was to bring the lion's head back to the US for taxidermy. But such violation would not carry jail term and is likely to result in only fine that the big game hunter can easily afford. He should be back to the outdoors in no time with bow, arrow and gun in hand.
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This is the other reason people are angry -- the realization that serious and legal consequences for animal offenders are rarely, if ever carried out. Existing laws don't require stiff penalty for animal poaching and a good lawyer can argue that the perpetrator "wasn't aware" he was violating laws -- which in Palmer's case is already the defense. Shift the blame to his accomplices or anyone other than the actual perpetrator.
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So, with realization that there is little legal remedy for the crimes committed, people take to the Internet and post things like the good dentist should "rot in hell" or be thrown in a lion's den. Yes, frustration, big time. But, no, it is not a "lynch mob." 
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Just the court of public opinion finally demanding changes in law and societal values as we don't like what we see in the mirror. -- PCA
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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Perilous Molt Finally Over, the Geese are Flying Again!




All 32 of the geese who arrived at the Central Park Reservoir in mid-June for the molt have now regained flight feathers and departed.
But, the goslings not quite ready for flight yet.
With only the family and John and Mary remaining now, the Reservoir seems eerily empty.


It came as no surprise yesterday to go to the Central Park Reservoir and find only 7 geese -- Hansel, Greta, their three surviving goslings, along with John and Mary.
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It had become obvious over the past week that the perilous molt was nearing end, as some of the geese were already flying.
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I use the term, "perilous" not only to refer to massacres that occur to flightless geese around the country during the molt, but also to the barrage of negative, complaining articles (such as one shared yesterday) about geese during the times they are basically marooned to a specific location and causing great consternation among some people.  
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It seems our species has very little patience and tolerance for the dictates of nature when such laws are inconvenient to us. Reality is however, that no one wants "movement" more than the geese themselves.  They are not happy campers without the ability of flight and are very eager to regain flying capability as soon as they are able to.  
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When once the molting geese at the Reservoir regained flight feathers, they all took off over the past two days -- just as all  32 had arrived around the same time in mid-June.
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Hansel and Greta of course cannot go anywhere because their goslings are not yet ready to fly. It is anticipated that flying capability for the three goslings should occur sometime over the next month. It should be exciting to observe that.
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John and Mary, like Hansel and Greta arrived at the Reservoir in the early spring for nesting.  Sadly, for the third year in a row their nest was destroyed and eggs lost. But, since they did not arrive with the 30+ geese specifically for the molt, they don't leave with them either.
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Though not certain, I suspect Greta and Mary might be sisters and may be among the goslings that hatched at the Reservoir around six or seven years ago. From information read, geese often return to the place they were hatched for nesting and it is usually the females who determine nesting sites. Certainly, there seems no great kinship between Hansel and John, though these days they appear to be on peaceful terms. But, there might actually be connection between the girls.
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Perhaps it's good for the goslings to have other geese around besides their parents -- though its not clear how long John and Mary will actually stay now that they can fly. Should they remain a while, that might be suggestive of actual relationship between the female geese, Mary and Greta.
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All of the observations of the past few weeks punch huge holes in the oft repeated contention contained in many articles that "when fed by humans, geese never leave a location." 
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Of course geese leave locations (has they have been doing for millennium) regardless of whether they are fed by humans or not.
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I have observed this repeatedly over the years and in all seasons. Put simply, when nature calls for the geese to leave, they do. I frankly don't think tournedos would stop them.
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Moreover, despite me tossing treats to the family every evening at the Reservoir, I know more surely than my own name, that as soon as the goslings can fly, they too, will be gone -- as will John and Mary.  The only question is, will all 7 geese leave together or (more likely) will John and Mary leave sooner? That, I make no predictions on.
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Speaking about challenges of the molt, an excellent, informative column about the goose molt was recently published in The Huffington Post by journalist and goose expert, Mary Lou Simms. I personally urge all following this blog to read it:
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It's truly rare to read anything these days that is 100% accurate (especially when the subject is geese), but this appears to hit the mark.
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The geese don't have many friends in the media, but thank God for the small handful they and we (who love geese) have.   -- PCA 
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Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Geese Owe No Apologies for Living



Goose family in Central Park, now sadly, one short.
A young boy and father enjoy the geese and ducks at the Reservoir in Central Park. But, if some have their way, all wildlife should be gone in public parks for their "interference" in personal pleasures.

Summer is not yet half over, but already it's been a cruel one.
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In Central Park, all but one goose nest, were destroyed. Of the four goose eggs that hatched, one gosling now appears to have perished (though I am hoping desperately to be wrong on this).  "Binky," the gosling with a leg injury has not been seen for some days now.
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In other parks throughout the city and Jamaica Bay Wildlife "Refuge," geese were ruthlessly rounded up by USDA "Wildlife Services" and sent to slaughter. Only one media source, (The Daily News) reported on any of the slaughters and that was only the roundup at Inwood Hills Park where 24 geese were captured and sent to their deaths.
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Nevertheless, the negative propaganda pieces on geese continue to propagate in the press.
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One which I have chosen to share and find particularly irritating (not only for its inaccuracy on geese, but even more so for its self-absorption) is this piece written by an avid runner who apparently feels that wildlife has no right to exist in a public park.
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I posted a comment to the rant asking why, if the runner dislikes geese so much, he simply doesn't choose another running site?
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Or, do those who have virtually taken over nearly every inch of outdoor park spaces for personal "exercise" simply feel that all is owed to them? There should be no birds or squirrels or anything else for that matter (including human pedestrians) that dare to inconvenience their runs or marathon bike rides?
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One would like to remind this disgruntled runner (and others like him) that it is not the geese sending people to hospitals and morgues as some cyclists have done.
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Nor is it the geese littering park watercourses and paths with plastic water bottles as many runners do.  
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Finally, it isn't the geese mugging people in parks. Robberies in Central Park have, in fact, doubled over the past year. http://7online.com/news/yet-another-central-park-mugging-raises-concerns-about-crime/878344/
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It appears geese are being unfairly blamed and scapegoated for both, quality of life issues that humans create for other humans, as well as hikes in violent crimes.
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No one after all, has ever died from or significantly suffered from stepping in goose poop.
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Personally, I am very tired of endless media diatribes against geese and other wildlife and even more tired of the all too common narcissistic attitudes that have become seemingly ingrained into our culture. Attitudes that say, "The world owes ME."
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You know what, Mr. Runner, cyclist, mugger or person with cell phone glued to your face?
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The world doesn't "owe" you anything -- and neither do I or the geese.  -- PCA
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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

One of Central Park Reservoir Goslings in Jeopardy


Binky -- a gosling on constant move and in jeopardy now.
The family four nights ago when reunited again.
Now that they can fly again, the other geese are departing the Reservoir.
Mom and Dad with two of their fast growing goslings.
 
At least half the molting geese at the Central Park Reservoir have regained their flight feathers and immediately departed over the past two days. It is anticipated the rest will soon follow as the geese are eager to move on.
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Geese who won't soon be moving on are, however, the family as the seven-week-old goslings are not yet ready to fly and won't be for at least several more weeks.
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Sadly, there is troubling news to report on the family.
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One of the four goslings pulled up lame over the past week.
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"Binky" (my name for him) has not been able to come up on or walk the jagged rocks and over the past two days, has drifted away from the rest of the family on the water -- presumably while they were roosting or resting on the rocks.
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The last time I saw Binky two nights ago, he was with the family and appeared to be getting a little stronger in the hurt leg. I felt encouraged when seeing him briefly stand at the water's edge of the rocks -- something not observed in the previous three days.  But such hope and optimism might have been premature.
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(As previously noted, it is nearly impossible to rescue a hurt or sick bird at the Reservoir, due to lack of access to both pedestrians and park rangers.  In this particular case, one would also need a boat as Binky was/is always in the water. )
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Not seeing the lame gosling for two days (despite three trips around the Reservoir), I thought Binky might have perished, but two other bird observers reported seeing him swimming alone, far away from the family -- including as late as last night.
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I am concerned for Binky for several reasons, most notably, the separation from his family, but also because the geese's main food sources (plants and reeds) and opportunities for rest are on the rocks -- which of course, Binky can't access.
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Unless something rapidly changes, the outlook for Binky's survival is grim. It is not so much the injury that is life threatening nor is there large presence of predators around the Reservoir.  But, goslings do need to be with the families and they need healthy quantities of food and rest. None of these Binky is getting now (assuming he is still alive) nor is there any means for me (or anyone I know) to personally rescue him.
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(I should add that four nights ago, Binky had also drifted away from the family, but I was able to "herd" him back to his parents and siblings. All was fine for the time being, but did not last.  Unfortunately, with all the dense foliage surrounding the Reservoir, I have not been able to spot Binky over past two days. One has to hope the family reconnects on its own on the mile and a quarter watercourse.)
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The Central Park Reservoir is one of the safest and most peaceful places in New York City for migratory geese to rest and for molting geese to undergo the four-to-five week period they are without flight feathers. There are no dogs at the Reservoir, no fishing and no harassment conducted.
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But, in terms of bountiful grass and food supplies, the Reservoir is lacking and for any injured or sick bird, it is like a watery or icy graveyard.  At least ten water-birds virtually starved to death at the Reservoir this past winter when it was iced over and there were no means to rescue any of the suffering birds.
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I hope Binky isn't going to be our first casualty at the Reservoir this summer.
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As noted so many times, the hope for future resident Canada geese at Central Park lies with these four goslings who miraculously hatched this past Memorial Day.
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But now, one of those little miracle lives is already in serious jeopardy -- as all three goslings were lost at the Reservoir last summer. -- PCA
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Saturday, July 11, 2015

The Geese Who Lay the Golden Eggs for USDA Wildlife Services


 


Only a week or two from gaining flight feathers and flying out of the "sanctuary," fifty Canada geese were instead heralded to an upstate slaughterhouse yesterday where their deaths translate into paychecks and guaranteed employment for all involved. -- That is as long as there are still geese in New York City to round-up and kill.  
50 geese on a 9,155 acre "sanctuary" deemed unacceptable.
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But, they are the gift that keeps on giving. The geese who lay the golden eggs for a largely discredited federal agency that prospers and benefits from their demise.  
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All fifty (flightless) Canada geese (and their goslings) were covertly rounded up from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Friday, July 10th by USDA Wildlife Services, crammed into bright yellow crates and hauled upstate to a mom and pop-type slaughter facility in New Windsor, New York.  Kroll Farm Market New Windsor, NY, 12553 - YP.com
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Nearly 24 hours later, it was not clear if the geese had actually been slaughtered or were still crowded together in the crates.
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A member of GooseWatch, NYC (https://www.facebook.com/GooseWatchNYC?fref=ts) called the operator of the facility on the evening of July 10th offering to buy the geese and send them to a sanctuary. Rather than being told, "Sorry lady, the geese have already been processed" (which would have been the normal response if they had been), the caller was told to call the DEC and hung up on.
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Kroll Farm slaughters and processes both, domestic animals and wildlife. There can be different laws and regulations applying to both and thus it's unlikely wild and domestic species would be slaughtered together in the same time frame. Who knows how long animals have to suffer in confined and crowded spaces before finally being "dispatched" in a comparatively small slaughter operation? It could be hours or in some cases, even days.
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Once dropping the geese off and collecting a paycheck, employees of USDA Wildlife Services have "done their jobs" and neither know nor care what happens to the animals once they leave. No one seems to actually know or care.
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One thing we do know for sure however, is that the roundup of helpless, molting (but otherwise healthy) Canada geese jammed into crates and sent to slaughter hundreds of miles from the city is as far from "euthanasia" (USDA's and media's favorite word for the carnage) as the Milky Way is from other galaxies.
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So, why is it done?
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In recent years, we have heard all types of justifications for the annual slaughters of our New York City resident geese. From "overpopulation" to "nuisance" to flying into planes.
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But, none of these wash with regard to what is actually happening now.
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The Canada goose population in New York City has been decimated during the past seven years in which more than 6,000 geese and their babies have been captured from city parks and a so-called, refuge and either gassed or slaughtered.
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That there were only 50 geese on a 9,155 acre "sanctuary" to be captured on July 10th speaks volumes to the devastating impacts these ruthless roundups have actually had.
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The fact is that multiple federal, state and city agencies (as well as politicians) are involved in the decision-making processes and different contracts are signed for the annual slaughters. All have their hands in the toxic pie, but no one person or agency bears total responsibility. Thus, depending on which official, politician or agency representative one communicates with, each can blame the other and deny any and all culpability for the annual carnage. (Even the slaughterhouse operator told the woman to "call the DEC." Essentially that is what they all do -- tell questioners to call someone else.) USDA WS has even claimed that their "directives" come from the federal Department of Interior.
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The main culprit in this government entrenched bureaucracy is however, the much discredited USDA Wildlife Services as they are the people who prepare various Environmental Impact Statements (EIS) to "sell" the concept of lethal culls to politicians and leaders of other agencies who apparently don't bother to question or protest.
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Reality is that capturing molting geese who cannot fly is easy "make work" that results in lucrative governmental contracts and guaranteed employment for many people over periods of years. Moreover, considering that USDA WS has had decades to perfect their animal roundup and exterminations skills (as well as the justifications for them) they can be considered "expert" in the fields.
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Nevermind that there have been endless complaints against WS's brutal methods and killing of endangered species, non-target animals and even pets over the years. So much so, that some newspapers (including The New York Times, Sacramento Bee, Washington Post) and Washington legislators have called for investigations into the practices of WS but so far none have borne any results.  
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The bottom line is that this is a job retention program that is built largely out of one spectacular media event in January of 2009 ("Miracle on the Hudson")  that had absolutely nothing to do, in reality, with the charge and actions of this entrenched, largely tax-funded, federal agency that acts more like a private wildlife extermination company than a responsible governmental entity.
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Captain Sully's plane was simply the golden apple for USDA WS or more accurately, "the gift that keeps on giving."  The two misfortunate geese that the airliner collided with that fateful day were not even NYC resident geese, but rather migratory visitors from Labrador, Canada.
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(Most of the birds that airliners typically collide with are either small flock birds or migratory birds passing over our skies. Thus the killing of more than 6,000 resident Canada geese in NYC over the past 7 year has had zero impact on actual airliner/bird strikes and therefore accomplished nothing to "improve airline safety."  On the contrary, bird strikes have reportedly increased at LaGuardia airport in recent years.  Bird strikes on rise at LaGuardia Airport, nationwide, FAA data show | Newsday )
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Protest as we may, the clandestine slaughter of our natural wildlife continues with nary a word about them in the press. One can speculate that the massacre of our NYC geese will continue as long as there is easy money to be made from them and/or there are simply no more geese remaining to be captured and killed.
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As I put the finishing touches on this, one day following the roundup of 50 pathetic geese from Jamaica Bay Wildlife "Refuge," I wonder if those geese are still sitting terrified and cramped in those bright yellow crates awaiting slaughter?
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They flew into a "refuge" some weeks ago perceiving they would be safe during the six-week molt in which they lose flight feathers. They would have been ready to fly out on their own in less than a week or two.
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But, little did the 50 hapless geese know they were flying into a trap.
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A trap whose sprockets and wheels are oiled by the cruel and dishonest hands of a discredited federal agency that forever profits from their deaths and those who cowardly buckle and acquiesce to them with nary question or protest.  -- PCA
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Friday, July 10, 2015

Killing Fields of a Wildlife "Refuge"


USDA returned to the scene of past crimes against nature to perpetrate again.
The doomed whisked away in secrecy to gruesome and unjustifiable death.
 
"Not one goose in sight!" remarked a visitor to Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge on Friday, July 10th.  Only feathers of the slain drifted forlornly on the sand, giving indication of flightless geese having been recently there. 
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Shockingly, stunningly, unbelievably. Yes, there was still another covert Canada goose roundup at the famed wildlife "sanctuary" conducted by USDA Wildlife Services (in collusion with the National Parks Service, the Post Authority and the City of New York) earlier that July morning.
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More than 1500 geese have been captured and sent to slaughter over the past three years, calling into question whether this "refuge" by the bay can rightfully be called a sanctuary at all?
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 Of course, the citizens of New York City are intentionally kept in the dark about these wildlife "culls" at a so-called refuge (and other parks throughout the city). There are presently no media reports on it. 
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Moreover, if calling or writing officials to raise questions, one is either ignored or answered with ambiguous justifications for the slaughters (most of which are questionable at best, highly exaggerative or downright false at worst). Or, in some cases, the questioner is given vague assurances that such culls are "unlikely" to occur this year due to the low population of geese and before taking lethal actions again, "evaluations" will be conducted.
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The latter of course has turned out to be completely false for the past several years.  
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What possible "evaluations" could have been done if relying on the same data from years ago and the same justifications?
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Considering Captain Sullenberger's flight 1549 collided with migratory geese from Labrador, Canada in January of 2009 (geese who had nothing to do with resident New York City geese) why is this incident still dredged up six years later to excuse annual slaughters of flightless, resident geese molting in NYC during the summer?
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Could it be because in those six years since that incident, officials have been unable to come up with anything better as justification to kill hundreds of NYC geese year after year?
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Question: If we know an individual (or officials) are lying to us about one thing, can and should we believe them on anything else? Such question is frequently posed at court trials and the implied answer is usually, "no."
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We don't know how many flightless, doomed geese and goslings were ruthlessly and covertly captured from Jamaica Bay Wildlife "Refuge" this year and sent to their deaths at an upstate slaughter facility. (One observer arrived at the location just as the USDA trucks were pulling out and none of the workers would answer his questions.)
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We do know that at a place referring to itself as a so-called, "refuge," not one goose could be seen on a clear summer day, when normally, there would be many.
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Only the imprints of crates in the sand and tattered feathers remained.
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Wind and waves will eventually whisk away the evidence of evil deeds conducted in secrecy, without the scrutiny and light of public knowledge and input.  
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But if there be a merciful God above, He shall not turn blind eye to the sins perpetrated upon His creations nor the false rationalizations used to justify them.
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God after all, granted to the birds of the earth, power to fly great heights so as nearly to touch His hand -- power ironically not granted to those in "His image" without benefit of machine.  -PCA
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Sunday, July 5, 2015

Harry the (Goose-Like) Herring Gull -- Back Where he Belongs


Harry, yesterday morning, suddenly looking fit as a fiddle.
Harry just before he was issued "flying papers" yesterday by Hansel, daddy to the four goslings,
One of the goslings yesterday with mom. Dad was busy with other things then -- like chasing off a gull too long enjoying a pity party.
 
Some good news to report on this week of otherwise grim events (specifically, goose slaughters, gassings and shootings around country parks just prior to July 4th celebrations).
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The good news concerns Harry the Herring Gull who had been hanging with the Canada geese along the Central Park Reservoir rocks for the past week with what appeared to be, a broken wing.
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Apparently, the wing was not broken, but rather sprained or otherwise temporarily injured. Harry has made what seems, a miraculous recovery!
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Yesterday, when seeing Harry in his usual place, swimming and otherwise loafing with the Canada geese on the east side of the Reservoir, I was stunned to note his wing looked completely normal and back in place! (It had been hanging and dragging along the ground for a number of days.)
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At first, I considered the gull might not be Harry. But, when seeing him scurry along the rocks, I knew he had to be.  In the thousands of trips around the CP Reservoir over the years, I had never previously seen a gull on the rocks surrounding the water.  Gulls tend to fly around in the air or rest in the middle of the water. For some reason, they completely avoid the jagged, sloping rocks circling the Reservoir.
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It seemed Harry, however, had found some friends among the geese while sustaining and recuperating from a wing injury.
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Though sometimes scrapping with each other, the geese appeared to sense that Harry was somewhat compromised and represented no threat to them.  Though not exactly laying out a welcome mat, the geese peacefully accepted Harry's presence among their gaggles without so much as a "honk."
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That is, all except two of them.
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Hansel and Greta, the parents to the four goslings hatched last month were none too pleased about a gull wandering amongst their crowd -- and especially anywhere near their four babies.
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Yesterday morning, Harry wandered too "close" to the family, and suddenly, Hansel, the daddy gander rushed toward Harry with what was, in no uncertain terms, very clear and stern message:
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"You've  worn out your welcome here, Buddy!  The pity party is over and there's nothing wrong with your wing now.  BEGONE with you!  Get back to where you belong!"
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And with that, Harry suddenly uplifted himself from the water and both wings working perfectly, flew to the far west side of the Reservoir!
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In the distance, I could see Harry softly land amongst a flock of gulls -- the birds he's supposed to be with!
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Still molting and unable to fly, Hansel was not able to take off after Harry in the air, but it wasn't necessary.  He had perfectly done his job.
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"Good job, Hansel!" I laughed, suddenly realizing and feeling relief that Harry could fly and yes, was back where he belonged.
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There are of course, a couple of lessons that come out of this optimistic story.
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One is that not every injury to a wild animal is one that necessitates rescue.
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I have personally felt it important to adopt a "wait and observe" approach over several days or even a few weeks before taking decisive action to rescue a wild bird. (Exceptions being an animal grievously injured and bleeding, listless, lethargic, anorexic and seeking solitude.)  Some injuries, though initially appearing serious, can show remarkable ability to self-heal over time. 
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I recall for example, a Canada goose who showed up alone at Harlem Meer a couple of years ago. The goose was unable to walk with what was some type of foot or leg injury.  He hobbled around on one leg for a full week, but otherwise was healthy, of good spirits and eating heartily.
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Within ten days, the foot (or leg) completely healed, the goose was able to walk normally and flew out from the Meer, presumably to seek his mate or flock.  
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In the case of Harry, the wing did appear broken and from what I read on the Internet, the outlook seemed bleak for gulls with broken wings. But, apparently there are other kinds of wing injuries that may appear serious, but are actually fast healing.
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Perhaps it's similar to a human twisting an ankle or temporarily "pulling a back." Painful for a short while, but not serious.
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The other "lesson" in all of this might actually be to Harry.  He might have learned that by hanging with geese, there are sometimes good treats around and that the rocks ain't so bad after all.
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Just be careful not to get too close to "The Family" and their cranky and not-so-charitable dad.  -- PCA
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