Monday, June 21, 2010

County Canadian Geese to be Captured and Slaughtered (News)

(Picture Left: Papa goose with one of goslings at Turtle Pond.)

County Canada Geese to be captured & slaughtered


The TrentonianMercer County is about to go to war against Canada — Canada Geese that is.Some of the familiar, once-migratory birds have decided to make New Jerseytheir permanent home, but, too often, they’ve become resident nuisances,with each goose capable of producing up to a pound of poop per day.

A study conducted over a number of years by the U.S. Fish and WildlifeService found that New Jersey’s Canada Goose population was more than double its ideal size, according to Carol Bannerman, spokesperson for theU.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services. New Jersey has both the highest human population density of any state andone of the highest resident Canada Goose populations in the country.

Inthese conditions, conflict between goose and human populations is likely.Unfortunately, humans enjoy many of the same aspects of public spaces thatattract geese, namely open, grassy athletic fields, and bodies of watersurrounded by comfortably sloping beaches.

In the coming weeks, USDA Wildlife Services personnel will engage in theirannual capture and removal of Canada Geese throughout the state.Mercer County has contracted with the USDA for its goose managementservices since last year, said Kevin Bannon, executive director of theMercer County Park Commission.

In capture and removal, geese are rounded up and euthanized at the requestof municipalities and businesses to whom the goose population is a nuisance.Once geese have been corralled, they are placed in crates similar to thoseused for chickens and brought to a facility where they are euthanized withcarbon dioxide in accordance with procedures approved by the AmericanVeterinary Medical Association.

In New Jersey, the bodies of dead geese are “disposed of,” while in someother states the geese are used in foods like goose burgers.In Maryland the meat is donated to the state food bank, said Bannerman.Last year, 1,900 Canada Geese from 100 properties in 10 New Jersey countieswere killed.

From the perspective of the USDA, limiting the Canada Goose population isthe best way to curb problems in a state densely populated by humans andhome to a high number of resident geese.To this end, they also engage in nest and egg treatment, or interferingwith goose eggs in a way that prevents them from hatching.Simply breaking or removing eggs is not a viable option because geesecontinue to lay eggs until they are satisfied with the number ofhealthy-looking eggs in the nest. Instead, eggs can be “addled” by anynumber of techniques.Eggs can be shaken, coated in 100% corn oil, or punctured so that the yolkis broken but the shell remains intact.

Each of these techniques disruptsembryonic development and prevents eggs from hatching but is imperceptibleto geese.In Mercer County, the USDA treated 31 nests and 159 eggs with corn oil lastyear. A total of 2,700 eggs were treated by the USDA throughout the state.

For Edita Birnkrant, New York director of Friends of Animals, the groupthat led a protest of Canada Goose killings in New York City last June, the“endless cycle of killing and killing” geese is itself a problem, ratherthan a solution.Birnkrant called the killings “knee-jerk reactions” to goose-humanconflict, and feels that they take place only in the context of hysteriasurrounding problems with geese manufactured by wildlife managementagencies.

“We need more tolerance,” she said, “The problem is not with geese — it’swith us.”But Bannerman maintained that killing the geese is a necessary evil,stating that the overpopulation of the birds has created problems thatjustify their removal and killing.Geese eat farmers’ crops, create problems with overgrazing, pose a threatto planes and behave aggressively, especially in areas where they have beenfed in the past.Perhaps most noticeably, geese leave feces in areas they inhabit. Eachgoose leaves one-half to a full pound of feces per day. The fecal mattercontributes to water quality problems, like excess algae growth, can be acarrier of E. coli and is unpleasant to be around.

Finding “balance between the positive aspects of having Canada Geese in thewild and in the community, and the negative aspects” is the goal, Bannermansaid.Removing and killing geese, and disturbing their eggs, are only part of thelarger “integrated approach” of the USDA for combatting Canada Gooseproblems, according to Bannerman.

The integrated approach begins with a no-feeding policy meant to discouragebirds from staying in areas important to humans.Harassment, a process that aims to chase geese away from particular areasonce they have been settled, is carried out by teams armed with bordercollies or pyrotechnics.

Prior to contracting with the USDA, Mercer County hired local companies toharass resident Canada Geese with trained dogs.These harassment techniques are generally used once geese have arrived inan area and must be removed. To prevent geese from settling in an area,habitat management is crucial. Habitat management makes an areaecologically unsuitable to Canada Geese and greatly limits the likelihoodthey will choose to live there.

Mercer County has introduced habitat manipulation techniques throughout thefacilities it manages. A successful instance of habitat manipulation hasbeen on the 17th hole at Mercer Oaks West’s golf course, Bannon said.The hole, bordered by a lake, sustained a “tremendous amount of turfdamage” in the past because of the high Canada Goose population, he said.Now, thanks to a small fence and lakeside vegetation, golfers can enjoy thespace sans geese.

Bannon touted the USDA programs as “highly effective,”and he has received “a lot of positive comments from residents.”Birnkrant’s organization actually supports a handful of the strategiesinherent in the “integrated approach” espoused by the USDA.“People need to be educated not to feed them,” Birnkrant said.

The core of the Friends of Animals strategy for managing conflict betweengoose and human interests is habitat modification, similar to programsalready implemented in Mercer County and throughout the state.

Where the groups differ is on the more aggressive and violent tactics.Policies of capture and removal and nest and egg treatment areunacceptable, according to Birnkrant. Border collie removal, whilepreferable to lethal methods, is seen by her organization as unnecessaryuse of violent force that does not address the root of the problem.

Regardless of the justification, Friends of Animals finds the killing ofgeese unjustified and inhumane, instead stressing that developing humantolerance and respect for geese and creating habitats less ecologicallyfriendly to geese are the only long term solutions.


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