Tuesday, March 8, 2011

"Plant a Million Trees"

An interesting tidbit on the local news today:
Apparently crime in New York City parks is up 25%.
It seems Mayor Bloomberg and other city and park officials have more to worry about than harassing and gassing innocent Canada geese in our parks who commit no crimes and in fact, add beauty and a sense of natural mystery to park landscapes and lakes.
Let's hope our city leaders get their rear ends in gear and realize where the real priorities need to be in terms of public safety in our parks. 
That said, I want to turn once again to the questions of avian breeding:
One of the non-lethal alternatives heavily pressed in terms of containing goose populations in city parks is egg addling.   This involves finding nesting geese, somehow scaring the mama goose away and coating the undeveloped eggs with cooking oil.  Although the parent geese will continue to lay on the eggs and protect the nest, the eggs will not hatch.
While this method is far preferable to rounding up and gassing thousands of Canada geese and their goslings, there are questions to be raised and addressed.
According to one woman who has carefully observed geese over a period of years where egg addling has been utilized, goose couples can become quite traumatized and dejected when their eggs fail to hatch.  (For more on this topic and actual discussion, please go to our Facebook page:  http://www.facebook.com/pages/Call-of-the-Canada-Geese/114425621968855?sk=wall ).
This makes sense as the drive in all species (including humans) is to procreate.
Recently, it was reported as a news story, that two mated swans "divorced."  The story was considered news because normally, swans, like geese, mate for life.  
It was however speculated that the two swans split after several attempts to breed young apparently failed.
We know that infertility in married human couples can cause a great deal of stress and in some cases, even ultimately lead to divorce.
While "divorce" in the avian world is rare (among those species mating for life), it apparently does occur and according to experts happens mostly when the couples fail to breed.
Unlike humans who can otherwise fill their lives with careers, hobbies, interests or even the adoption of children, animals have the main drives of food, protection, mating and procreation.
As said yesterday however, not all ducks or geese produce young, even when paired off.
Apparently, in the animal kingdom there is some kind of decision-making process or hierarchy in terms of which birds actually breed and which don't. Much, I believe, depends on environmental factors, ages and health status of the birds and predations upon the species.
But, for those birds who do nest and actually produce eggs, then one has to presume that the instinct and drive for those eggs to hatch is very strong and compelling.  Repeated failings of eggs to hatch over time can conceivably lead to stress in the mated bird couple and eventually even splitting.  
I believe that when deciding to interfere with nature in whatever way, we also have to look at the long range impacts upon normal species behavior and not just what feels good to us humans at a particular moment.
Another point brought out in the discussion with this other observer of geese, is that apparently the geese over time, become more "adaptive" to human attempts to get access to and destroy eggs.   Geese can build nests in high places far from lakes and very hard for people to otherwise get to. 
For example, the parent geese from Turtle Pond last year, apparently built their nest on top of rocks near Belvedere Castle. This was after park workers had successfully oiled eggs in previous years.  The geese "adapted" to the predation upon eggs and created their nest in a place difficult for the humans to get to. 
Subsequently, the parent geese had six goslings and raised them successfully to the joy and wonderment of thousands of park goers last year (though obviously not NYC's Mayor or the USDA).
In essence, these breeding questions are hard to answer with certainty and prediction on future avian behavior.
In the middle of the last century, Canada geese were almost driven to extinction due to destruction of habitat and over-hunting.
Wildlife biologists at that time figured out how to "captively capture and breed Canada geese because the geese have always been popular as a hunting target. Descendants of the captive geese were later released throughout the Atlantic coast.
What the "biologists" didn't apparently figure however, was that geese bred here had no instinct to "migrate" to the Arctic or Canada.  Nor, did they apparently figure that a species almost brought to extinction from hunting might learn to "adapt" and seek out safer, gun-free areas (such as public parks or golf courses) to live.  
And thus it seems in this century, the geese have learned well how to "adapt to" and "compensate" for all human attempts to hunt, destroy, harass and prevent reproduction. 
I believe at this point, we are dealing with some super intelligent and wily geese who are fast figuring out how to outwit humans.  
As said yesterday, sometimes the best answers are no "answers" at all, but to simply let nature figure out its own reproduction cycles or lack therein. The geese are not going to reproduce themselves to the point of mass starvation and environmental destruction any more than ducks or other animals do.
Why do we as humans always feel we have to "control" everything?  The more we control, the more we HAVE to control.
Sometimes the best answer is to simply observe, learn and when absolutely necessary, "shoo away" so-called "pest" animals with a Border Collie.
And that is only if having some major golfing or park event.  Otherwise, leave the geese alone and they will figure out what is best for them,  the environment and human interaction.
As for humans who don't like geese?
Stay away from the lakes and plant high trees and shrubs in other areas. 
The geese, being as wary as they are like open spaces in order to see possible predators. 
Trees and shrubs block their views.
Perhaps the only sensible thing our Mayor has said over the past few years is to "plant a million trees."   -- PCA

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