Thursday, June 30, 2011

Photos, Goose Roundup, Delafield, Wisconsin, 6-2011

More photos from Jim Pfeil, resident of Delafield, Wisconsin who witnessed brutal roundup of Canada geese on 6-20-11. The geese were stuffed into trucks and later gassed at undisclosed location. For the full story, please read previous two blog entries below.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Goose Roundup for Gassing, Delafield, Wisconsin (Follow-up)

As follow-up to the last entry, here are some of the photos from Delafield, Wisconsin that Jim has shared with us.
Please note the size of the crates in which from 3 to 6 adult geese are crammed in.
Small goslings separated from parents in one crate.
Note, the ganders still trying in vain, to protect their families.
Keep in mind the geese, when loaded on the trailer were taken away to an undisclosed location for gassing.
Keep in mind, these SAME roundups are occurring now all around New York City with the geese being sent on a journey of hell, 2 to 4 hours away to a Pennsylvania slaughterhouse.
Keep in mind, that according to the photographer and witness to the Wisconsin massacre, "the geese were half dead by the time they were loaded on to the trailer."
PLEASE ATTEND tomorrow's (Thursday) Friends of Animals protest at the Mayor's townhouse, 17 East 79th Street (Between Fifth and Madison Ave) beginning at 6: PM!  The geese need every one of us to speak up for them!  -- PCA

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Human Toll and Trauma of Goose Culls

So much happening this past week.
Articles breaking out all over the country concerning goose roundups and kills occurring in Alabama,Wisconsin and other areas.
And of course the intended ones for New York City.
Please go to our FB pages for the latest in articles and other information:
In this endless sea of Canada goose "culls" and  horrors, there is nevertheless some good news to report -- though even that is somewhat dubious.
Roundups and gassings of geese will not occur at Prospect Park this year.
City officials and the USDA claim that's because, "The cullings of last year were so successful, it isn't necessary to return this year to PP."
Considering they conducted an extermination last year at Prospect Park, yes, it was impossible for the geese to "recoup" their numbers.
Add to that, the harassment of the spring and current goose numbers at the 600+ acre park are now below 20.
However relieving the news might be that no culls will occur at PP this year, the rest of the news for NYC geese is not positive at all.
The city and USDA are threatening to round up and kill 800 geese from "undisclosed locations" around the city in the next few weeks.
DEP and USDA won't disclose the kill sites because they don't want the USDA workers "harassed" by members of the public who care about the geese and what is happening to the wildlife in our city parks. 
They claim of course that this is for the "welfare" of the geese, but that is just one more PR spin and lie added to what is now, a very long list.
Whatever "humanity" might exist for the flightless geese terrorized on watercourses by humans in boats, driven to land, corralled and then grabbed and stuffed 4 to 6 to small crates and shoved into trucks where they are then driven to their deaths, would only occur were there witnesses with cameras or video to record.
Such was the case, a few days ago when a resident of Delafield, Wisconsin, went out with a camera this past Wednesday morning to photograph USDA workers rounding up 80 geese and their goslings who, to that point, had been residing peacefully on a lakefront property of more than 900 acres.  But, there was very little "humanity" to witness.
I spoke with "Tim" (not his real name) by phone on Thursday evening, one day after the trauma that caused this man severe emotional trauma and insomnia.
This is what he told me:
(Tim) --"I knew something was up, when I looked out my window and saw a man in a kayak wearing a life jacket. People don't normally wear this gear when going out on boats.  I grabbed my camera and went to the lake."
(Me)  "What time was this?"
(Tim)  "8 A.M.  There were three police cars and a team of USDA workers.  The cops would not allow me to get too close.  I shot many pictures.  It was horrible.  The man in the boat drove the geese and goslings to the land.  There, workers corralled them and started cramming them 3 to 4 to a crate.  Some of the goslings were screaming.  The woman directing the operation was laughing...."
(Me)  "How long did this take?"
(Tim)  "Four hours.  From 8 Am to Noon.  The geese were terrified.  They were pooping all over themselves. Most of them looked half dead by the time they started cramming them into the trailer.  It was a huge trailer, but they crowded the birds anyway."
(Me) "Do you know where they took them?"
(Tim)  "I understand they were taking them somewhere for gassing. When they finally left, I tried to follow them in my car.  But, the police blocked me from doing that.  Many of these goose families I knew -- in some cases, for more than five years They even took my 'Buddy!'"
Tim then explained how he had rescued a goose several years ago who had been shot with pellets.   The goose was almost dead when Tim rescued and brought him to a vet.  But, the goose survived and was one of the geese rounded up the other day.  Tim took that particularly hard.
(Tim) "I took pictures as they chased Buddy out of the water and stuffed him into a crate. He kept poking his head out.  Now, I can't even look at the photos.   I have not been able to sleep since this happened.  Yesterday was the worst day of my life."
Tim and I actually talked for a couple of hours. 
He told me he had been trying to fight this action for months, but the Mayor of the town would not listen to any pleas from those caring about the wildlife.  Apparently, a very wealthy neighbor resented the geese being on his side of the lake and demanded that the town and the government, "get rid of them."
Though a claim was made that "egg addling" had occurred, either they did not follow procedures properly, were lying about the oiling, or the parent geese successfully removed the oil.  More than half of the geese rounded up on Wednesday were goslings at different stages of development.
I begged Tim to write down and document his experience as both a way of dealing with the trauma and as means to share with others.  I begged him also to email me some of the photos.
"Tim," I said, "One of the problems in fighting for the geese, is that to this point, we only have three photos of a roundup and none of us in New York have personally witnessed a roundup and can testify to it.  You are one of the few people who can testify to this and you have photos.  We really need your help if we are to get the word out about this stuff to the press and the public."
"It kills me to look at the photos now.  They make me relive the whole horrible experience," Tim replied.
The man was so distraught and sleep deprived, I don't know that he will do actually do these things now.   Hopefully, he just needs some time.
However, he did tell me that I was free to give his name and number to any members of the press that might be interested in doing a story.
The problem is, I don't have media connections.
But, am telling Tim's story anyway -- even without the photos and personal documentation.
In all the debate and discussions about the goose slaughters occurring around the country, what we rarely hear about are the tolls and traumas to those Americans who truly care about nature and these long persecuted birds.
They, like Tim,  suffer in silence and with the terrible memory, guilt and sorrow of birds they so loved, but in the end, could not protect or save.   -- PCA

Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Most Critical Question

I haven't written in this journal for a few days because of the events and media reports that have exploded around the recent DEP press release of, "Rounding up NYC geese to feed to the poor in Pennsylvania."
This ploy is obviously to make "palatable" to the public, the notion of killing birds from city parks for no other reason, then that they fly.
Among the many (mostly cookie-cutter) articles that printed verbatim, the DEP press release, came one that actually cited the number of geese that the city is targeting.
"1,000," according to this piece from MSBC and the National Post:
This is, needless to say, extremely disturbing because it is difficult to see how we presently even have that many geese in NYC to capture and slaughter.
Several articles have claimed we have as many as "25,000" geese in New York City.  But, that figure has been quoted for at least a couple of years and long before the "cullings" of last year or even the year before.
It seems the media does very little investigation of actual claimed "facts."  Indeed, the reporters don't even question the action.
The DEP press release claims NYC geese will be corralled (since they cannot fly now), crated and sent to a "processing plant" (i.e. slaughterhouse) in Pennsylvania. However, they don't give the actual location of the (waterfowl) slaughterhouse. That is something the media should question and demand.
The fact is that wild geese who have never been handled by humans will be crammed 6 to 7 to small, "turkey crates" and trucked to an "undisclosed location" at least two hours away from New York City in the heat of summer.
Does this not in and of itself, constitute "cruelty to animals?"
My personal guess is that at least half the geese will be dead by the time they arrive to the Pa "waterfowl" slaughterhouse due to the heat and stress.  And those will be the LUCKY ones.
The "reason" cited for trucking the geese to Pennsylvania is because NYC doesn't have a waterfowl "processing plant."  But, we are threatening to build some goose slaughterhouses for "next year."
Why is the press not questioning any of this?
If, in fact, any "questions" have been raised at all over the past few days, they have had to do with how to "cook the geese and how they taste."
It is indeed dispiriting that so few people and no reporters are asking what should be the most basic questions:   "Why are we killing birds for the simple act of flying?  Isn't flying something the geese were designed by nature to do?"
The excuse for the slaughter would of course be, "Public Safety."
But, the fact is that not one New Yorker has died as result of Canada geese.
On the other hand, thousands of people die in car accidents every year and at least three people (including a toddler) have been killed over the past couple of years in NYC by falling tree branches. 
But, we are not banning automobiles and we are not chopping down trees for these reasons.  Rather, (in the former case) we build better cars that are less likely to kill people during a collision.  Well, the same should be the case with airliners that sometimes collide with birds. "Build them better."
Because of the quota number cited in the above article, I will not be sharing numbers or locations of geese observed in Central Park over the next month or so. Since the geese are molting now and the roundups will soon be occurring, I would not want to possibly jeopardize any geese I personally see (and know) by putting such information on a public Internet site.
It is sad and borderline paranoid to think this way, but it has become crystal clear that we cannot take anything for granted -- even the safety of the few geese in NYC's most famous and prestigious park, Central Park.
It seems we are all drinking the Kool-Aid to go along with the "cooked geese." 
That is, with the exception of this one lone article from January of this year.
It asks the one and most critical question in all this: 
"Why?"  -- PCA 

Thursday, June 16, 2011

"Humane Disposal"

No sooner had yesterday's "God's Birds" entry been posted, that a slew of grisly articles suddenly appeared, proclaiming in Pollyanna fashion,  that this year's rounded up park geese will be sent to Pennsylvania slaughterhouses.  The Huffington Post referred to this as as, "disposing of the birds more humanely."
Obviously, the press doesn't "get" either the issue itself or the story.
Invading city parks to conduct massacres on exiles who have merely escaped persecution elsewhere is akin to thieves invading our homes and shooting our pet dogs and cats.
What would it matter how "humanely" they disposed of our beloved animals's bodies?  Or, if the bodies were then "fed to the poor?"
Please read this piece from yesterday's NY Times:
And this article from the Wall Street Journal:
Please immediately go to the "For the Love of Geese at Prospect Park" Facebook page for directives on important calls to make today to save the geese.
I now have to get cracking to make some calls, among them, to my representatives and the Mayor's office (311).  -- PCA

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

God's Birds

Pivotal" is, I guess the most accurate way to describe yesterday.
It began with painful, knife-in-the-gut, death-in-the-family kind of news.  The kind of stuff that sends some people to shrinks or medications.  The kind of confusion that begs the question, "How could this happen?" and "Why did it happen?"  The kind of life event that one has no ability to change.
Indeed, it was the kind of occurrence that sometimes compels us to question the existence of God.
But, this journal isn't about those kinds of soul wrenching matters and life altering events 
Rather, it is simply about animals and specifically for the moment, Canada geese.
(Interpersonal dynamics and events aside, they can nevertheless, set the stage for what later occurs.)
It was with heavy and confused heart that I left with my two dogs yesterday before dusk to return to Turtle Pond in Central Park.
I hoped to find the four geese observed the night before, flying south over the park.   A part of me also wished that two of them might be Mama and Papa goose returning to "their" pond after mysteriously vanishing a couple of weeks ago.  But, I dared not hope too much of that. It was a dim possibility and I knew it.
Temperatures were cool and the end of the day, misty.  A light rain intermittently fell, sending many park goers scrambling towards the park exits as I entered.
Lots of troubling thoughts and questions were mulling through my head as I approached the Great Lawn.
But, they were abruptly interrupted when looking out over the quiet and plush, green lawn through the hazy mist.
A memory suddenly intruded my head and overwhelmed the senses.
Mama and Papa goose and two of their grown goslings peacefully grazing on the grass.
The image was from less than a month old and occurred on a similar rainy and misty day.
But, reality this time, was that the geese were no where to be seen on the forlorn and damp field. 
It simple appeared green and endless.
I tried to will the juxtaposing images of the geese on the field out of my head, as it was in such sharp contrast to the stark emptiness before me.  But, the memory would not leave.
Rain started to fall a little heavier, then blending with tears suddenly streaming freely down my face.
A part of me was grateful for both, the rain and the fact there weren't many people around.  I could not seem to control the torrent of unexpected emotions running through me like a huge, crashing wave.
Gathering my dogs and trying desperately to regain composure, we left the Great Lawn area and walked towards Turtle Pond.  
But even before arriving there, I knew I would not see any geese.
More disappointment and more uncontrollable tears.  The pond appeared so still and lifeless without the two familiar geese on it.  The small rock where Mama and Papa rested at night and frequently groomed themselves was likewise, barren and empty.  
More tears flooding and blurring my eyes.
I can't come to Turtle Pond anymore.  I can't look at this emptiness anymore.
But, the pond was not, in fact, entirely "lifeless."
Two mama ducks with tiny ducklings rested on the set of rocks at the east side of the pond.  -- The same rocks where Mama and Papa used to sleep at night with their goslings.
I attempted to focus attention on the new duck families and went with my dogs to shoot some photos.
One mama duck had 8 tiny ducklings clustered together at the edge of the rocks near the water.   The other mama had only one (older) duckling and she and the one surviving baby were with a mallard.   I wondered if the mallard was the "daddy" of the little one and thought it unusual for a family of mallards to actually be together.  Usually, the mother mallards (unlike geese) raise their babies alone.
While the ducks lightened, temporarily, the melancholy and despair otherwise weighing on my soul,  I still wanted to search the entire area for any possible geese.
After tossing some seeds to the two duck families, Tina, Chance and I walked the south side of the pond leading up to Belvedere Castle.
I looked at the green, lush grass areas where Mama, Papa and their goslings used to graze last year.   So plush and healthy looking.  But now so empty and lonely.
More tears, mixed with a some disgust for the ways geese have been so falsely accused of "destroying grass."  Nothing could be in fact, further from the truth.
Finally reaching Belvedere Castle and peering down over the empty rocks -- the same rocks where Mama sat on her nest in late April, only to later lose her eggs, I once again became emotionally unglued.
Closing my eyes and finally burying my face in my hands, I could not look anymore at the lifelessness and kind of "death" before me.   Death where once, so much life had been.
It seemed everything was gone.
Please, God, help me.  What does this all mean?  I need some sign of something...of hope.....its all so gone.....Help me.
But, there was no great light beam in the sky -- just the rain still slightly, but steadily coming down and seeming to obliterate, the fading light of the day.
Nevertheless, suddenly feeling somewhat and ironically energized despite the overwhelming sense of loss and despair, there was still one place I had not looked.....
I had no expectations when going to the lake and indeed, at first glance, it appeared to be the same emptiness that I'd been looking at during the previous hour.
But, something caught my eye  -- what appeared to be some bird-like shapes on a far rock.
Could it be?   Am I now imagining things in the dark?
I had to get closer to get a better look.
Traversing little winding paths through scores of trees and brush, I had no idea where my dogs and I were going, but merely followed sense of direction and some seemingly guiding force.
Finally reaching an opening to the lake, I looked out on a rock to see a small group of mallards peacefully resting.
Disappointment washed over me again, when realizing that is what I must have seen when first arriving at the lake.  As much as I love ducks, they weren't the geese I was searching for.
Not wanting to disturb the mallards any further, my dogs and I continued to walk quietly along the little path facing the lake, ready at last to give up and return home.
But, then suddenly, I was stopped in my tracks.
There, just a few feet in front of me was a gaggle of ten geese quietly standing on a large rock!
Oh my God.  Is this a mirage?
I almost could not believe my eyes.  Suddenly this huge feeling of relief and gratitude and, I don't know, achievement or validation of some sort suddenly swept over me.
After securing my dogs to the small fencing, I removed some cracked corn from my bag and started to toss some to the geese who slowly, but confidently approached me as if in recognition.
It was then I noticed, one of the geese walked with a pronounced limp!
It was Papa goose!  -- And right next to him, Mama!
It was like a miracle.
Within minutes both geese, so intimately familiar, were nibbling gently from my hand.
There are no words to express the sense of peace and joy I felt --like a cozy fireplace and warm homecoming with loved ones.  Like a huge weight had suddenly been lifted off my back.
Adding to the sense of suddenly being blessed,  was the realization that at least four or five of the other geese were the grown goslings from Mama and Papa of last year.  Two of them joined their parents in confidently taking treats from my hand.
I stayed for some minutes just taking in this miraculous site before me and even chatting to the geese. It was a moment I wanted to hang on to for a lifetime.
It was funny to note, once gain, Papa goose nudging the tail feathers and asserting authority over a couple of the youngsters as he did back on Turtle Pond. The whole scene in fact, was like old times.
I also noticed that at least half of the geese, including the parents, appeared to be molting.
One of the ganders however, who had not yet lost flight feathers was acting as "sentry" for the group.  I found that interesting, considering that Papa was the presumed leader of the gaggle.  Perhaps the sentry goose was from a different family or more likely,  took on the protective position because he could still fly and perhaps represent threat to a potential predator.
It was wonderful to be enjoying these sweet moments with the "family" once again.  Even more wonderful, this wasn't a memory.  It was real and it was in the present.
Rain started to come down a little harder and the evening had then turned dark.
It was time to say good night to my friends.
"May God keep and protect you."
Retracing steps back to the Great Lawn once again, I sat with my dogs on a wet park bench in the same location that earlier had wrought sobs, tears and sense of profound loss.
I found myself strangely crying once again, but this time, I could not fully understand why.
So many things had happened on this day. So much I didn't understand and couldn't find explanation for.
But, then through this haze of questions, fears, confusion, longing and loss, but at the same time, joy and reunion, came one clear and concise thought:
You have to keep fighting for the geese.
And suddenly the events of both the day and the night began to make some clear, but troubling sense.
The sacrifices, ridicules and burdens would be many and they would be great. So too, would be the questions, losses and doubts.  Could one ever hope to have the strength to bear them out and withstand?
But, it wasn't my place to understand the "whys" of them, as much as to simply recognize and embrace them.
I had asked for guidance and sign and they had been granted.  -- PCA

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Unusual Occurrences (Or, The Ones That Got Away?)

I don't know if this means anything or not.
But, at least six new geese flew into the north end of Central Park yesterday.
While walking to Harlem Meer just before dusk, I heard familiar honking overhead.
I looked up and saw four geese quickly flying over the trees and heading south over the park.
Wow, that's odd!  I thought.
It is, in fact, highly unusual to see geese flying this time of year, because as noted, the geese start to molt around this time (rendering them flightless) and usually the geese don't molt at Central Park.
There were also two new geese on the water at Harlem Meer.  They were swimming alongside Bozo and Bonnie.
According to reports from Prospect Park, a number of the geese there have already begun to lose their flight feathers.
But, obviously the ones I am seeing are still flying.
The unusual occurrence causes one to wonder if USDA has already started its June cullings around town and those geese who could still fly, made a quick get-a-way?
This could also be the case with the new geese who have suddenly appeared at Prospect Park over the past week or so.
It is of course, terrible to think this way -- perhaps even "paranoid."
But, unfortunately, knowledge of continual harassment on these birds, as well as thousands rounded up and gassed over the past few years causes necessary alteration in thinking.  If we are overly "suspicious," it is because we have to be.
Reality is that I haven't seen geese flying over Central Park in at least a month.
It is unusual that they would suddenly be flying in now just prior to molting and especially to a place they don't normally molt.   What would cause this change?
Later today, I will return to Turtle Pond and the boat lake.
"Normally," one would not expect to see geese at these locations during the molt, (with the exception of last year when Mama and Papa raised their five goslings at Turtle Pond).
But, nothing is obviously "normal" anymore so I try not to anticipate or expect anything these days.
Each day is a little surprise.
Between trying to figure out the normal flying and behavior patterns of geese, but factoring in the impacts of harassment and cullings, it is impossible to be sure or confident about anything right now.
It is frustrating to be so "in the dark" and to be fraught with so many unanswered questions.
Has the city and USDA already begun goose cullings?
If so, where and when?
Will they be returning to Prospect Park?
What is happening in the other city locations where geese have been rounded up and gassed in the past?
Will the feds show up at Central Park?
What is really needed is a network of "Goose Watchers" from around the city who could report and share with each other, the happenings in their own areas.
Perhaps then, we could begin to put pieces of the puzzles together. 
But, for now it is grasping in the dark, notation of unusual changes, and taking nothing for granted.
Everyday, a little surprise.  -- PCA

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Myth of "Resident" Geese (Or, In Praise of Native, American-Born Geese)

New geese have arrived at Prospect Park within the past two weeks bringing the cited number up to 39 with one gosling.
The fact new geese have flown into Prospect Park just prior to molting suggests that Prospect Park is a likely and popular molting site for Canada geese.
There are apparently ample food supplies and the geese feel reasonably protected and "safe" for the six weeks that they shed their flight feathers and are unable to fly.
Of course, "safe" might just be an illusion.
The flightless birds are, in fact, extremely vulnerable to any clandestine 4 AM raids and roundups at the deadly hands of the USDA.  Normally, the USDA goose "culls" occur from June 15th through July 15th to coincide with the goose molting period.
Then again, we don't know what "normal" is anymore and so far, none of the agencies are talking or sending out press releases this year.
We also don't know if the new geese arriving at Prospect Park recently have actually flown there to molt or if they were simply chased and harassed from some other location.
Regardless however, this suggests that most of the 368 geese rounded up and gassed from PP last year during the molting season, were not in fact, "resident" geese, at all, but rather birds who merely flew in for six weeks to molt (or were chased there from another location.)
The likelihood is that most of the massacred geese would have left Prospect Park anyway, once their flight feathers grew in by late July or early August of last year.
Where would the geese have gone?
They would have returned to a "staging" location -- such as Harlem Meer in Central Park.
What is a "staging" location?
Normally, after raising any potential young and/or molting, the geese then leave the breeding/molting sites and return to what are called, "staging" areas.
A staging or "meet-up" site is the location where the geese meet up with other gaggles of familiar geese (in some cases, extended family members) to rest and prepare for the upcoming winter migrations.
The geese will often stay in the staging areas for up to two months, resting and eating heartily to build up fat reserves for the upcoming winter. Gradually, the geese leave the staging areas in small or large groups to fly south for the winter.
At the same time, geese from the far north (such as Canada or the Arctic) fly south to New York City or other areas in the North East to "winter" from late November through February.
In Central Park, the wintering geese from the north usually take up brief, two month "residence" in the Central Park Reservoir -- providing it does not entirely freeze over.
But, then as soon as the ice melts (late February), the migratory geese are gone, starting their long journeys back north.
All of this raises the question of what really are "resident" Canada geese?
Or, is there even such a thing as a "resident" goose?
Not, really.
The fact is, that NO goose stays in one location for the entire year (unless injured and incapable of flight).
The "resident" label has thus been falsely applied to Canada geese who, even if born in America are not "resident" to any one location for a period of more than three months.
For purposes of clarification and to differentiate geese born in other countries from those hatched in the states, it would be more accurate to refer to foreign born geese as the "wintering" or transitory geese and those hatched here as "native" geese.
All geese in fact, "migrate" in fall and spring, even if it is only moving from one state to a neighboring one.
And all geese move from breeding and/or molting locations in late summer to staging locations.
It seems use of the term, "resident" has been wrongly applied to insinuate that some geese are "lazy" and stay in one location their entire lives.
This term seems to invite hostility from many humans complaining about so-called, "resident" geese, while at the same time, claiming admiration and respect for "migratory" geese.
But, in fact, there is little, if any difference between the two types of geese with the lone exception being the countries they were originally hatched.
From that standpoint, we seem to appreciate far more, those geese born in Canada or the Arctic who winter in the states, than the geese who actually originate from here.
We advocate protection for foreign born geese, while declaring all out "war" on our native goose population!
Something seems very weird and even "un-American" in that.
What is a resident Canada goose?
No such thing any more than someone staying in an area for three months would be termed a "resident" of that location, as much as a visitor.
American born geese are simply native geese.
One would think we would value and appreciate them every bit as much, if not more so than the visiting geese from the north who "reside" here during the winter.  -- PCA

Saturday, June 11, 2011

"Build It and They Will Come......."

"Build it and they will come."
We are all familiar with this famous line from the movie, "Field of Dreams."
But, real life is not a movie.
In recent years, 27 million dollars has been spent to "restore wetlands" areas in New York City.
What do wetlands attract?
Waterfowl of course -- including, Canada geese.
Last year, among 19 New York City sites where Canada geese were rounded up and gassed by the USDA,  were 3 locations where "ecological restoration projects were being conducted costing, 6.2 million, 20 million and 1.3 million dollars respectively."
These were the Marine Park Golf Course, Alley Pond Park and Pennsylvania Landfill Complex.
A total of 454 geese were rounded up and gassed from these three locations alone.
It is hard to understand exactly how a golf course fits the definition of "wetlands" or even "ecological restoration project," but apparently it does.
But, for the misfortunate geese who dared to show up to these "restoration projects," or "wetlands," it was like someone being invited out for a date and then being shot when actually showing up for it.
"Build it and they will come -- and then we will round up and gas them."
The USDA "observed" 1,877 Canada geese last year at 26 different city locations.
Of those, 1,676 geese were later rounded up and gassed from 19 locations.
That is an 89% "reduction" rate. -- Or, what some of us might consider, an extermination campaign against the geese.
The FAA and the US Air Force, has in fact, declared a "Zero Tolerance" for any geese within seven miles of a airport.
This information is derived from The Goose Removal Report put out by the USDA, entitled, "Summary: New York City Canada Goose Removals in 2010:"
Other interesting tidbits of information are contained within this report.
For examples:
Eight geese were rounded up and gassed from Brookville Park.
Fourteen were rounded up from Fort Totten.
And nineteen from Flushing Meadows.
Apparently, low goose numbers are not enough to deter the USDA hit squads from invading public parks and killing geese.
However, 157 geese were rounded up and killed from Van Courtland Golf Course in the Bronx.
Obviously, those geese "loafing" (a word actually used in the report) around on golf courses are a huge threat to airliners.
The reports does not state how far any of these locations actually are from the airports.
But, we do know that Prospect Park which was the site of 368 geese rounded up and gassed in 2010 is more than 9 miles from the airports.  -- far outside the so-called "7 mile radius" indicated for cullings.
Oh well.  What's a few small details?
After all, "they are only geese."
Still, if it distressing reading actual stats of the goose massacres conducted last year around the city (as well as 2009), it is nothing compared to the "recommendations" for the future contained in this report.
They include:
"Utilize additional capture techniques to increase number of sites and geese that can be captured.
"This may have to be done other times of the year besides the molt."
In other words, the geese can be rounded up and killed aside from the June through July molting window and they can presumably be rounded up from any NYC location and in whatever fashion or "technique."
The geese quite literally have no place to go in New York City.
We have created the "wetlands" and other "restoration sites" and invited the geese in.
Only to put targets on their heads when they actually show up.
"Build it and they will come.
And we will waiting with our plastic crates and gas chambers."
Its like of like the old adage:
"The light at the end of the tunnel is really the headlight of an oncoming train." 
For the geese, it tragically is.   -- PCA

Friday, June 10, 2011

"What Good are the Geese?" -- Ask the Other Birds

(Photos:  1-- Bozo and Bonnie approaching me in greeting.  2-- Mallards hanging peacefully with the two geese.  3-- Birds safely in water from chasing dog, thanks to Bozo)
Many happenings over the past couple of days.
Most significant is the condemnation by the HSUS of the planned, USDA roundup and gassings of around 20 geese and goslings peacefully living on the grounds of a Saranac Lake, New York school because of complaints about "goose poop."
The school board just approved the roundups to take place next week:
Please comment to the article and go to our FB pages for information and contacts to write the school and protest:
Protests have occurred in Clarence, New York (Buffalo area) resulting in a deferring for the moment, further goose shootings after hunters were called out last week killing geese on a local pond and raising the ire of community residents.  The shootings of the geese resulted from one woman's complaint about the geese being a "nuisance:"
It is good to see people like Ted McHuge of Clarence, New York speaking up for the geese and bringing this barbarism and lunacy to the attention of the media and the public. It proves that when motivated for the right reasons, even a small group of people can bring about important change:
On the local level, developments remain disturbing regarding the vanishing geese at both, Central and Prospect Parks.
It is apparent from photographic evidence, that the "new" goose family at Prospect Park with the one gosling is not the same as the original family, who at last count, had three remaining goslings, but have not been seen in more than a week.
Both sets of parents had their eggs oiled, but goslings hatched anyway.
The first family had six eggs hatch, but later lost goslings over the ensuing month.  We don't know how many eggs hatched from the second set of goose parents.  To this point, they have one surviving gosling.
Once again, this raises questions of what happened to the first goose family?
Did the last three goslings die?  Are the parents now out on the lake with other geese?
Or, did something happen to the entire family?
One thing we do know: 
"Nature" has nothing to do with these bizarre happenings and unanswered questions at Prospect Park.
Yesterday morning, I returned to Harlem Meer in Central Park to check on the two remaining geese there, "Bozo and Bonnie."
Much to my great relief they were still there.
What was particularly fascinating was how the small group of mallards (about a dozen) still at the lake, huddled around the two geese, presumably for security and early danger warnings.
Tossing out some seeds to Bozo, Bonnie and the ducks on the small, sandy, beach area, suddenly at one point, Bozo, looked up alertly, honked and along with Bonnie made a fast bee line for the water.  The mallards quickly followed them.
That's strange! I thought, looking around and not seeing anything of immediate danger.
But, then, within a minute,  a small, off-leash, Cocker Spaniel made a mad dash towards the water and birds, though he did not venture into the water far enough to pose a viable threat.
Bozo had sounded out the early warning to all the birds a full minute before the dog actually appeared, giving chase!
In almost all the articles about Canada geese these days, little, if anything at all is said about the amazing qualities of these animals and their importance to other animals and the environment.
But, the facts are that not only will the peaceful geese accept orphaned goslings into their flocks (unlike other bird species), but they serve as vital security beacons to other birds and early warning systems of danger.
"Get rid of the geese" and you get rid of all those waterfowl species who hang with the geese and depend upon them, primary amongst them, mallards.
Recently, I came across a New York Times column from last year that also speaks to some of the unique qualities of Canada geese and answers the question, "What good are they?"
A question that is really like asking, "What good are flowers?"
What good are the geese? 
Ask the other birds. -- PCA

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

"The New Unnormal"

What is so disturbing about the goose gassings that occurred last year at Prospect Park (and other city locations) is that both, public understanding of wildlife and trust in the system have, in many ways, been compromised and decimated. 
We the people don't know what to expect anymore and have to be prepared for anything.
"Normal" things can be suddenly suspect.
On the For the Love of Prospect Park Geese Facebook page (For the love of the geese in Prospect Park (92)) someone recently posted that the park is issuing more tickets for those in the park past 1 AM.
There are two ways to look at what now appears to be a sudden enforcing of park rules:
1-- The park normally ups enforcement during the warm weather when more people are likely to be testing the hours rules.
2-- USDA is coming back to round up the Prospect Park geese and the city, park and feds want to insure that no one is around to document or call the press.
Of the two possibilities obviously, the first one is nothing to be concerned about, but the latter one is.  The problem is, we don't know which is true and there is no real way to find out.
Harassment of the geese is also taking its toll on what nature lovers can anticipate and/or understand as goose "normal" flying, mating and gosling-rearing patterns and behavior have been seriously disrupted and interfered with.
No one for example, could know what to "expect" when two parent geese whose eggs were addled back in April somehow managed for their eggs to hatch anyway.  According to experts, rain can sometimes wash off the oil or the mother goose might succeed in rolling the eggs sufficiently to remove the oil.
But, no one seemed to have answers on whether the hatched goslings might suffer birth defects or health compromises as result of having been deprived of oxygen for an unknown period of time while in the eggs.
Its been a "wait and see" game ever since the six goslings hatched at Prospect Park in early May.
But, it is a month later since the "miracle hatchings" and we know even less now than when the goslings were actually born.
Less than a week after the hatchings, two of the goslings vanished and presumably died.
Then, a couple of weeks later, a third gosling disappeared and is also assumed dead.
But, then last week, the whole family seemingly vanished!
Only to perhaps turn up in another location at Prospect Park with ONE gosling!
Is the same or a different family?
There is no way to know for sure.
If the parent geese with the one gosling are in fact, a different family, then what happened to the first family?
If it is the same family, then what happened to two of the three remaining goslings?
We are grappling with questions that, rather than having any answers at all, simply raise more questions.
The problem is, we are no longer dealing with "normal," but rather the new unnormal.
Under normal and natural circumstances, geese would rarely, if ever suffer an extermination of its entire native population in one area.  Nor, would they be subjected to daily harassment or have their eggs oiled.
But, at Prospect Park, the entire native population of geese was rounded up and destroyed last summer.
And the fact is, we don't know anything about the "new" geese who are at PP now.
We don't know where these new geese came from or whether they will stay.  We don't know their ages, sexes or their relationship (if any) to each other.  We don't know if the different groups and widely varying numbers of geese now at Prospect Park are extended families or just "random" geese who are popping into the park wily nilly or been chased to Prospect Park from somewhere else.
How can anyone understand or "predict" anything about the geese at Prospect Park now when we don't know even who they are or the very basics about them?
Moreover, while it is certainly not "normal" for a pair of mated Canada Geese to lose virtually all of their young a month after hatching, no one seems to have actual data or evidence on the possible effects of egg oiling on embryos who later hatch into live goslings.
(On this note, one has to ask why we are doing things like egg addling and harassment if we don't know and can't predict the later effects on species health and species behavior?)
While an argument can be made for non-lethal harassment and population control measures (such as egg addling) in small areas where there are large populations of geese, where is the merit of these arguments in large areas with small populations of geese?
The sad fact is, we have no idea what has been killing off the Prospect Park goslings over the past month or even worse, possibly the entire family.
Most disturbing of all in terms of the geese currently at Prospect Park, we don't know if they will be left in some kind of "peace" (highly unlikely), endlessly harassed or rounded up and gassed, like the native geese last year.
If our knowledge of goose health and behavior has been seemingly thrown out the window over the past year due to the "unnormal" events at Prospect Park, our trust of the powers that be has likewise, been compromised.
The new "normal" is in fact, the unnormal.
That is what happens when not just geese are annihilated, but also, public trust and faith in the system. 
We are in some ways, like a betrayed spouse, who, having been cheated upon and lied to, now suspect our partner even if s/he merely goes out for pizza.
Once destroyed in an instant, trust can be infinitely difficult to build up again -- especially when there has never been acknowledgement and sincere remorse for wrongdoing. 
As far as the exterminated geese at Prospect Park, we have gotten neither acknowledgement of wrongdoing nor apology -- even a year after the fact.
Instead, we and the geese have gotten harassment and been told we should be "grateful" for it.   (i.e. "Its either harassment or gassings.")
That is like a unfaithful spouse saying to his/her betrayed partner, "I won't go out and cheat behind your back anymore. I will instead, engage in Internet affairs and flaunt them in your face.  You should be grateful."
Grateful, indeed for pile-on.
And "pile on" is exactly what has occurred around the city with regard to our treatment of Canada geese.
These days, either harassment or round-ups and exterminations are occurring all over as our Mayor (Bloomberg) has publicly proclaimed that he wants the geese virtually eliminated from everywhere in New York City save perhaps the most southern tip of Manhattan.
Yesterday, I counted only TWO remaining geese, "Bozo and Bonnie" at Harlem Meer. That brings to 12, the TOTAL geese in all of Central Park right now.
Even park goers who are not normally "birders" are wondering and questioning, "What happened to all the geese who used to be in Central Park?  I don't see them anymore."  (A question posed to us the other day at the Animal Rights event.)
I can't answer that question, as despite my daily observances of Central Park wildlife, nothing is "normal" these days.
Are some of the "new" geese at Prospect Park those who were chased out of other locations, including Central Park?
It is certainly possible.
Were Central Park geese chased out to locations where they will be rounded up and gassed?
That is certainly possible, too.
Did the Central Park geese simply leave on their own to "molt" someplace they consider safer? -- A sometimes normal event under normal circumstances.
The problem is, we don't have "normal" anymore.
Once a species has been targeted for destruction, all "normal" goes out the window.
And once public trust has been breached by exterminations, lies and cover-ups that have occurred in the past, it is extremely difficult -- like Humpty Dumpty -- to put it back together again.
The new normal is the unnormal.  -- PCA

Monday, June 6, 2011

"If a Tree Falls in the Forest...."

(Photos -- From the "Our Planet, Their's Too" Animal Rights event at Union Square yesterday)
"If a tree falls in the forest, but there is no one to hear it, did it make a sound?"
We are all familiar with this common riddle.
Yesterday, there was a sizable event held at Union Square to commemorate and acknowledge the (mostly denied) rights of animals the world over.  Although at least 200 people actively participated in the, "Our Planet, Their's Too" celebration for animals and thousands of others stopped by tables to pick up information and support, the action was apparently not covered by national or local media with the lone exception of the Daily News.
Question:  If an event is held to raise public awareness to timely ethical and social issues, but it is not covered in the national press, did it happen at all?
Perhaps what both questions really ask is, Are the eyes, ears and brains of humans the only acknowledgements to existence and actuality?
Present day reality is that the media (i.e. what we see, watch, learn or read through media sources) is the evidence of newsworthy existence and actuality to most people.
If it wasn't on Sixty Minutes or reported in the The New York Times then it is probably unimportant in terms of social significance or doesn't even exist.
But, the torture, abuse and killings of many billions of animals annually certainly does exist and clearly it should represent something of greater importance and social significance then whether a young man takes a girl to the school prom or whether a handful of musicians are unhappy about some "Quiet Zones" in city parks.
And yet the latter two stories received wide coverage in the local media today whereas the widely attended and public, Animal Rights event has so far, received pitifully little.
What is wrong with that picture?
It seems only reasonable and logical to conclude that on the, "Falling Tree in a Forest" riddle, the tree certainly does make a sound to the thousands of creatures in the forest who hear and could likely be effected or even killed by a falling tree. (Humans, after all, are not the only life forms capable of hearing.) 
Just because humans aren't around to hear or see something, does not negate its actuality or connection to social, inter-species or geological importance.  Indeed, the planet itself existed millions of years before the first human ever walked on it.
But, in our incredibly myopic and self-centered human world, if we aren't there to hear the falling tree, then it did not fall.
And nature-born "rights" for animals (i.e. the right to exist and attempt to survive within the balance and challenge of nature) do not matter or exist because we humans have neither granted such rights nor necessarily agree with nature about them.
"Out of sight, out of mind"  simply means something never happened or is happening.
The problem with this philosophy is that it is simply not true. 
The ethically (and ecologically) questionable torture, abuse and slaughter of billions of non-human animals every year absolutely does occur (though usually far from most human view) and it does bear connection and significance to almost everything else in life.
And yet, when some humans attempt to open the doors and provide rare glimpse into slaughterhouses, factory farms, vivisection labs, animal shelters, or avian gas chambers, we are shut out by the major media (i.e. the eyes and ears of the social, ethical and cultural worlds) in favor of more "important" news, such as prom dates and a handful of disgruntled musicians.
Apparently, a trillion trees could suddenly fall and few, if any of us would hear them.
But, we could tell ourselves they neither existed nor mattered.  -- PCA  

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Can This Family Be Protected and Saved?

(Photos:  Family of Geese at the 59th Street Pond in Central Park.  Children feeding or photographing geese and ducks.  But, can these birds be protected?)
More very troubling reports.
A close observer of Flushing Meadows park has just reported that there are now "ZERO" geese there as of this past Wednesday.  The observer finds this, "absolutely mind boggling."
This occurs at a time the Mama and Papa geese have mysteriously vanished from Turtle Pond at Central Park, (along with several geese from Harlem Meer). 
On Wednesday of this week, I reported that the remaining ducks at Harlem Meer last Wednesday appeared to have been very "traumatized."
Meanwhile, people are still searching for the family of geese at Prospect Park.  Although two geese were spotted there with one goslings a few days ago, we cannot be sure that is the same family of five whose eggs hatched despite being oiled. 
Whether it is or not, bizarre things are happening at Prospect Park, as well as the other locations.
All of these disappearances are occurring at the same time that the USDA traditionally carries out its "goose removals"  (i.e. capture and gassings.) and a time that geese don't normally migrate or take off mysteriously.  Certainly, a family with young goslings cannot fly away out of a park.
Central Park of course claims that it has "never allowed" USDA to come in and round up its geese.
However lately, officials and spokespeople for Central Park have been less than forthright about its goose management program.  Various inconsistencies and evasiveness now  lead one to question everything we have been told so far.  
If, for example, the USDA did go into Central Park and round up geese, would anyone from Central Park admit to that to a member from the public?
Certainly, CP officials would know from all the bad publicity to Prospect Park last year (over the gassings of 368 geese), that such would not be the kind of information most park goers would welcome and want to hear.
Can all of this just be "coincidence?"
A couple of weeks ago, I was told by a birder at Turtle Pond that there was a new goose family at the 59th Street Pond at Central Park. 
Yesterday, I went to check this information out.
Indeed, there is currently a family of geese at the south side of Central Park (an area I don't normally go to as it is almost two miles from my home.)
The family consists of two parents, four, one-month-old goslings and what I speculate to be, four grown goslings from last year's breeding cycle.
I say "speculate" because the behavior I saw yesterday from the papa gander towards the four grown geese mimicked exactly the same behavior I saw from Papa goose at Turtle Pond towards his grown goslings from last year:  Acceptance, but laying down strict lines on where the juvenile geese can and cannot go.  (Rules are very firmly, but gently enforced by goose families and the "kids," even when grown, respect and follow them to the letter.)
The 59th Street Pond in Central Park is about the same size as Turtle Pond, though it is presumably, much more heavily trafficked by people and tourists.
The goose family is therefore, very socialized with people and it did not take long yesterday to witness small children feeding and even photographing the goose family, as well as about a dozen or so mallards in the pond.
But, after witnessing and learning what is happening with geese in other areas of the park and city right now, I am worried for these guys.
History, after all, tends to repeat itself.
Is this family of geese at the 59th Street Pond at Central Park SAFE?
I cannot answer that.
I thought Mama and Papa goose at Turtle Pond were safe. But, their eggs were destroyed and now even they are gone.
Over the past two days, I have been unable to find these two geese anywhere in Central Park and I have now been to just about ALL the watercourses.  Where could Mama and Papa be?
One would like to think that the goose family at the south end of Central Park would be safe and spared from any government cullings -- especially since they have enjoyed such high visibility and welcome from thousands of people and kids.
But, "Target and Beaky" were not spared at Prospect Park last year, even though they were very high profile geese who even had write-ups in the New York Times for having successfully survived pedestrian cruelty.
But, neither Target nor Beaky survived the cruelty of the city, Prospect Park leadership and the USDA.
History is the best predictor of the future.
I am not confident about the survivability of the goose family at the Central Park, 59th Street Pond at all right now.
Not unless they somehow make it through this month.
Since the pond is not close to me and I am still trying to monitor the North side of Central Park, I am putting out an emergency call to others to closely monitor this family on a daily basis for the next four weeks.
Is there anyone who can help in this?
If so, please email or contact me immediately.
The lives of this extended family of ten geese and their baby goslings may depend on it.  -- PCA

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Season of the Witch

(Photo:  One of six, very wary geese last night at Harlem Meer)
Even before hitting the small pier at Turtle Pond yesterday morning, I knew I would not see Mama and Papa goose.
A very bad feeling suddenly overwhelmed.  I was not surprised when looking at the empty rocks, empty pond and empty lawns.  On the contrary, I halfway expected it.
Nevertheless, I initially tried to dismiss and even laugh off the bad feelings as my once-again "paranoia."
The geese are playing hide and seek again!  Maybe they are rock climbing at Belvedere Castle!  Or, maybe they are sight-seeing at the lake or the Reservoir.  Don't panic!
But, more than an hour later, after searching the rocks, the lake, all the surrounding lawns and even the Reservoir with no sign of the familiar two geese at Turtle Pond, I was forced to give up the search and return home with my two dogs, Tina and Chance.
Emotionally, I was a mess.  Part of me felt numb.  But, the other part was becoming unglued.  I fought back tears while walking along crowded, uptown,  Manhattan streets.
Still, there was that part that tried to maintain hope and balance:
Go back later.   You usually see them at dusk anyway.  Maybe they take some kind of romantic day trips in the mornings.
I didn't believe that of course.  But, it was worth trying to convince myself.  At least for the moment.
Once home, I called the Central Park Conservancy (again) to ask the simple question of whether "Goosebusters" (i.e. harassment) was being used against the geese at Central Park?
The Conservancy advised me to call the Park Rangers (which of course have nothing to do with harassment).
But, I called the rangers anyway.
"Border Collies have been used in the past to chase the geese, but I have not seen them this spring," the pleasant-sounding ranger told me over the phone. She then added,  "Some people don't like the harassment. Its possible the person who reported it to you was remembering it from the past."
"Please add my name to those who don't like the harassment!" I said to the ranger.  "But, getting back to the point, the photographer told me he had seen harassment as late as a couple of weeks ago."
"I just know I haven't seen it," the ranger reiterated, "though I don't get here at 6 AM like the photographer."
"What would make these two geese suddenly leave Turtle Pond?" I asked.  "Its not migration season.  Normally, geese don't move very far this time of year.  These two geese usually stay at the pond until mid July."
"Sometimes people allow their dogs in the water," the ranger answered.  "A dog might have scared the geese off."
"These geese successfully raised six goslings at Turtle Pond last year!  They are well used to people's dogs and they know the terrain."
"Let me check with my contacts at the Conservancy and ask if harassment has been used recently.   I will call you back as soon as I find out."
"I would greatly appreciate that."
And with that, the call ended.
But, I never heard back from the ranger yesterday.
Either she was unsuccessful as I in getting definitive answers from the Conservancy.  Or, she did get the information and simply did not want to tell me.  I had, after all, made my position very clear on the harassment.  "ADD my name to those who don't like it."
And so I was back to square one.  No answers from anyone in authority on whether harassment was being used on the Central Park geese or not.  And no real explanations for the vanishing geese throughout the entire north end of the park -- including now, Mama and Papa geese, my very favorites and most well known.
Still, I elected not to write in this journal yesterday because there was so much I still did not know or have actual evidence or admittance to.
There was only one thing to do last night.
Return to Turtle Pond.
But, it was the same story as earlier in the day.
No geese and just a few ducks, including the mama mallard and her six still-surviving ducklings.
Having looked everywhere else for Mama and Papa goose without success, I decided to return to Harlem Meer.
The sun had just set when arriving at the Meer.  Though the lake appeared mostly empty of waterfowl, I could make out a few geese in the middle of the lake and a few more mallards than observed two nights ago.
Jillian and her four ducklings were swimming in the water, as were Brad and Angelina and most of the other mallards.
They appeared more normal and less stressed than Wednesday night.
The geese however, remained very wary and unmoving in the water.
Once it got dark, I moved to one of the embankments and tossed some seeds to a few of the mallards, as well as Brad and Angelina.
Only when doing this for about ten minutes, did the geese begin to move very cautiously in my direction.  When climbing on the embankment, the gander I presume to be "Bozo," gave a short, greeting honk to me, though his body language was cautious and tentative.
I counted a total of six geese, though one of them (probably the ever wary, Bonnie) did not approach and remained in the middle of the lake.
Her mate, Bozo meanwhile, was far more subdued than normal.  No antics, no hissing at my dogs and no bullying of the four other geese he came with. 
Nevertheless, Bozo  did seem to take on a leadership and "sentry" role.  -- Watching out while the others ate.  I am guessing the other four geese were much younger and perhaps might even be the goslings from Turtle Pond -- though if that was true, they were much more nervous and skittish than I am used to seeing them.
I did not see at all, Mama and Papa goose from Turtle Pond.
Finally, Bozo gave a honk signaling to the younger geese. And with Bozo in the lead, they all left the embankment and returned to the center of the lake.
I then gathered up my two dogs and we started to make our way home, saying a goodnight to the then chatty mallards who, for all intensive purposes, appeared pretty close to normal. 
A few were even chasing each other once again.
By the time we arrived home, both my dogs and I were knocked out having put in more than 4 miles in the park yesterday.
But, still I had no answers to all the bizarre happenings of this week.
Meanwhile, the goose family at Prospect Park has seemingly vanished this week, along Mama and Papa goose from Turtle Pond.  Though people have been looking for them, no one has been able to find the parent geese and their three surviving goslings.
Or, maybe it is only one surviving gosling now.
One Prospect Park observer just photographed yesterday, two parent geese and one gosling at the Prospect Park lake.
6,5,4,3,2, 1.
It is the season of the witch.  -- PCA