Friday, September 24, 2010

No Place to Go and No Country to Call Home

Its been some weeks since I've written in this journal.

That is because I have mostly been preoccupied with gathering as much information as possible on Canada geese. That means pouring through articles, videos and doing my own observations and taking photos and videos of the geese who come and go at Harlem Meer.

Most of these articles, videos and photos are posted regularly to the Facebook page especially devoted to this issue and whose main goal is to insure that gassing of Canada geese will never occur in Prospect Park again:

There is some encouraging news on this particular front:

Yesterday, the Prospect Park Alliance announced the first meeting of a special wildlife Committee that has been set up and whose first mission is to figure out humane ways for "management" of goose population at Prospect Park. Members of the Committee include HSHS, Audubon Society, Brooklyn Bird Club and Geese Peace.

It is highly unlikely that gassing would again be considered as a means of goose "management" at Prospect Park. Or, at least anytime soon.

(Press release and article from NY Observer posted on FB page.)

While this development suggests that some of our protests and work on the geese issue have paid off, it is way too early to "celebrate" in any way.

For one matter, this development only applies to Prospect Park, not any of the other parks or locations around the city where geese have been systematically and cruelly rounded up and gassed during the summer weeks when they molt and are unable to fly and escape.

Moreover, Prospect Park did not admit to any culpability for the massacre of 368 geese and goslings that occurred within its park this past July 8th. Rather, it chose to put all of the responsibility and blame on both, the city and the USDA.

Nevertheless, these issues aside, it is encouraging to know that one of our major parks IS finally and hopefully serious about some proper stewardship of the park's wildlife and has put together a committee of mostly credible and reputable organization spokespeople and experts. It should be added however, that the Committee also has a representative from DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) which was one of the agencies involved in the decision to "cull" thousands of Canada geese throughout the Metropolitan area.

A lot remains to be seen. While the establishment of the wildlife Committee for Prospect Park represents an important step in the right direction, it by no means represents either the solutions or the changes we would like to see for Canada geese in general. As noted, its scope is limited only to Prospect Park.

Meanwhile, the "expanded" hunting season has begun on Canada geese and as these words are being typed, thousands of these birds are being blown out of the skies each and every day, all over the country.

The "goal" in New York State alone is to "reduce" the Canada goose population by 2/3rds, from an estimated 250,000 down to less than 80,000. That means 170,000 of these magnificent birds are quite literally on the chopping block.

The actual numbers of Canada geese can be very deceptive.

Since they are such family and group oriented birds, one tends to see many of them congregated in specific locations (or, more likely, none at all).

It is not unusual to see a hundred or more Canada geese gathered near a lake, pond or golf course.

In those instances, many people will proclaim, "We have been invaded by the geese!" Or, "There are way too many of them!"

But, what really, is, "too many?"

Currently, there is an estimated 3 million Canada geese throughout the United States.

That doesn't really seem like such a huge number considering we have more than 310 million people in our country and we kill more than 3 million cats and dogs in shelters every year. I am not sure of the number of cats and dogs living in human homes, but it seems reasonable to guess it to be more than 100 million.

So, why is this number of 3 million estimated Canada geese throughout the entire country considered to be "overpopulation?"

We have to remember that in the middle of the last century, Canada geese were almost driven to the brink of extinction through over hunting and destruction of habitat.

Attempts were then made to "captive breed" Canada geese and release the descendents to various parts of the country, particularly in the North East. (This was mostly to guarantee that hunters would have geese to shoot at.)

However, what our brilliant "wildlife biologists" didn't figure on apparently was that geese captive bred and released in this country did not have reason to "migrate" to the Arctic.

Most of the geese stayed in this, their birth country and were then termed, "Resident Geese."

Governmental "experts" also didn't seem to realize the intelligence of the geese, their exemplary parenting, protection and adaptability skills and their acute senses to avoid danger.

Canada geese are capable of thriving in and near human environments, including cities. In fact, there is speculation (and it actually makes sense) that many geese choose to flee to or stay in urban environments as heavily human populated cities and towns usually afford the animals protection from hunters and guns.

So, now, fifty years later, government officials and wildlife biologists (seemingly in embarrassment over the TOO successful "breeding and release" programs) want to suddenly undo the protections for Canada geese under the Migratory Bird Act Treaty and offer them up as seemingly endless targets for hunters!

That is, when we're not gassing, destroying eggs or nests or "harassing" the birds first.

Question is, if we almost drove these birds to extinction in the last century when we didn't have half the "harassment" and destroy methods we do now, what does that say for the future of Canada geese when we do have all these means to terrorize and exterminate them?

What if the mission to destroy is even half as "successful" as the one to captive breed and release?

Recently, in referring to our country's seeming war on Canada geese, there was an article published in the Japan Times entitled, "No Country for Millions of Canada Geese."

How descriptive and accurate.

Though they may be called, "Canada geese" and though the war against them might be centered in this country, the truth seems to be that these proud and majestic birds --who can fly and cover thousands of miles in one day -- no longer have safe place to go or country to call home. --PCA


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