Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cull of the Canada Goose

"Pesky, Messy, Invasive, Menacing Health Threat.  They chase little children, poop on grass and fly into planes."
Are we talking about marauding, alien space invaders?
Serial killers with wings?
Suicidal sociopaths of the skies?
No.  We are talking about Canada geese.
Those large, proud, brown and black birds with the white face bands who can often be seen lazing around golf courses or city park lakes.
Geese have in fact, been "around" for thousands of years.
For most of that time, the presence of these migratory birds seemed to go largely unnoticed by most humans too involved with wars, famine, disease and/or just trying to get through another day.
Geese were however, greatly noticed by hunters particularly during the nineteenth century.
Such notice, along with destruction of natural habitat eventually brought the species to near extinction during the early and middle part of the last century.
Distressed to realize a favorite hunting target might succumb to the greediness and overindulgence of our own species, some wildlife biologists figured out a way to capture and captively breed the few Canada geese that could be salvaged.
The breeding program, over time, became hugely successful!
So much so, that descendants of the captively bred geese were eventually released throughout the United States, particularly in the North East.
However, there were a few things that the wildlife biologists didn't apparently consider:
1-- Geese born and maturing in this country would have no instinct or training by parents to "migrate" to countries further north.   These were in fact, native geese, born and bred here and proud to be "American!"  Why would the geese go someplace else?  Their loyalty and allegiance was to the red, white and blue!  Land of the free and the brave! 
 But, the land of the free and the brave wasn't always so kind.
2-- Whether realizing that most natural wetlands had been destroyed or harboring some genetic memory of the clear and present dangers associated with living in gun country, it seems the new geese were a lot smarter than their ancestors for whom bullets and arrows spelled demise.  Indeed, the new geese decided it was much safer to move into protected, "gated" communities -- like city parks and golf courses where guns were not allowed and to some degree, their presence was welcomed by humans. 
What parent, after all wants to raise their kids in a shooting gallery?
Who said the geese are dumb?
And at least for a while, the living was easy.
But, it seems over the past ten years or so, those same "wildlife biologists" who only 40 years ago, celebrated a wildly successful Canada goose restoration program are now having second thoughts. 
The restoration program was obviously, too successful!  There are now "too many geese" -- or at least more than what hunters can shoot at in gun country. 
It seems the biologists never figured on the wily geese adapting to and developing a taste for urban life -- and all the goodies that go with it, including chips, bread and popcorn. 
Apparently, many humans liked the geese, too. A mutual admiration society developed between the gregarious and trusting Canada geese and many human park goers.
So, what to do when animals overstay or over-breed their welcome? 
Or, take up residence in safe, gated, gun-free communities where hunters have no legal access to them?
Well, we obviously have to find ways to label and disparage the geese.  We have to persuade the naive public to fear the geese as some kind of major health or terrorist threat that have to be "culled."
And that's where the labels cited at the opening of this writing come in.
Never mind that in almost all cases, the labels are utterly false and defy common sense.
Suicidal geese flying into planes?  Health threat to water, grass or humans?  Terrorist sociopaths chasing little children?
None of those things are true. 
Our planes do sometimes run into birds.  But, not just Canada geese and certainly not "resident" Canada geese who are content to stay in their safe, gated park communities. 
Rather, bird and plane collisions speak mainly to deficiencies in airline mechanics for the fact that one bird -- any bird over 4 Lbs, can technically "take down a plane."  
Nor are bird strikes about suicidal, terrorist geese hell bent on taking down airliners and the human passengers in them.  The geese haven't, in fact, issued any "fat was" on westerners.
But, what about those claims of the geese being "messy" and their droppings polluting the environment or representing health threat?  
Geese are waterfowl and grass grazers. Their droppings are mostly recycled grass.
As part of the natural environment near waterways, how could the wastes of geese be "toxic" to that environment? 
That is like saying fish excrement is toxic to oceans.
On the contrary, goose droppings should be gathered up, composted and used as cheap and plentiful, natural "fertilizer" for grass. 
In these times of budget crunches, why are we bitching about natural goose fertilizer? 
Gather, bag and spread it.  Save money on grass treatments and fertilizers.
Finally, that claim about the geese chasing little children.
Well, sure they sometimes do.
Especially, those kids with popcorn or bread in hand whose faces light up with the honk of a friendly Canada goose. PCA  
 Author's note: Last year, in New York City, almost 2,600 Canada geese were rounded up, trucked to Kennedy Airport and gassed under the guise of "airline safety."

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