Saturday, September 10, 2011

"Vigilance and Patrols" -- The Last Goose

"The patrols are out there."
No, I am not talking about police patrols searching the bags of young women boarding subways.
I am talking about goose "patrols" in Central Park.
Patrols that have apparently been occurring since the geese completed molting in August.
At that time there were less than 20 geese in all of Central Park.
Now, there are none.
In New York City and in the crown jewel of city parks, geese are apparently regarded on the same level as human terrorists who crash planes into buildings.
I received the astounding news yesterday in a return phone call from Caroline Greenleaf of the Central Park Conservancy whom I had spoken with earlier in the week.
Nothing can quite describe the complete shock and disappointment I felt when hearing Ms. Greenleaf utter the words, "Yes, we have been using goose patrols since the geese completed molting in August."
If I expected Greenleaf to call back at all, I anticipated that she would tell me that due to the very low goose numbers in Central Park harassment measures were suspended for the remainder of the year.  This was the only thing that made sense under the circumstances.
Nevertheless, since "common sense" is something that can never be assumed, it was necessary to check.
But, even cynical me could not be prepared for the answer that was given (asserting that harassment was indeed being used).
"But, WHY would Central Park use harassment when there were hardly any geese in the park!" I said loudly into the phone.
"We have to anticipate migratory populations of geese flying into the park in the coming weeks," Greenleaf answered cooly.
"Migratory geese don't start to arrive until late October or November!  What do they have to do with the few geese who were in the park in late August?"
"We don't want the resident geese here when the migratory ones arrive."
By this time my head was reeling.  I was stumbling for words.
"Ms. Greenleaf, there were only SIX geese at Harlem Meer three weeks ago.  Now there are NONE.   In fact there are NO geese in Central Park at all.  I have been to every watercourse.  What is there to harass?  The ducks!?"
"No, no, we don't harass the ducks!  It is a very targeted and specific operation."
"But, you don't understand!  OTHER birds look to the geese for early warning systems.  There were about 60 to 70 ducks at the Meer when the geese were there three weeks ago.  Now there a just a couple of dozen.  When you chase the geese, you chase out other waterfowl as well!"
"That's not true!  Harlem Meer has always been a rich resource for the waterfowl."
"Sure.  When the geese were there!  It's not now!"
"Look, Ms. Greenleaf,  I was THERE when goose harassment was used at the Meer last November -- which, by the way, would have been on migratory, not resident geese.   The woman from Geese Relief threw some loud noisemaker on the ice and once the 30 or so geese sounded out the alarm, ALL the birds took off, including mallards, shovlers and even the one SWAN who was there!"
"We don't use that company anymore," Greenleaf assured.
"It doesn't matter the company!  The point is, ALL the birds left, most of them never to return.  I have never seen the swan to this day!"
"There are two swans......"
Interrupting Greenleaf in mid sentence, "I'm talking about one swan, not a pair!"
From this point, the conversation degenerated further as I was furious and inconsolable.
"When do you start a war on mallards when some fisherman complains of ducks interfering with his fishing?"
"We would never....."
"I don't believe you!   I see what has happened with the birds and the park that I had come to love and respect so much over the years.  I had even given names to some of the geese and knew them as families.  I would never believe that Central Park would stoop to such a level of harassment and cruelty against a gentle bird that is no harm or threat to anyone!  How can you claim to care about wildlife and nature and do something like this?   There is so little wildlife in Central Park anyway and you harass and chase out what little we have?  That's outrageous!  Please know I will never donate another dime to the Conservancy."
Obviously uncomfortable with the direction the conversation had taken, Ms. Greenleaf said she had to go to a meeting, but it was OK.
It was clear we were not going to come to any understanding or meeting of the minds on the issue.
Still furious and emotionally reeling after hanging up the phone, I could not write of the conversation yesterday.
I realize I was combative to Ms. Greenleaf who served as "messenger of bad news" as opposed to doer or necessarily decision-maker of it.
Nevertheless, she was defender of it.
Since yesterday, I have had time to think about the conversation and situation.
I don't actually know that Central Park made a specific decision to harass the six geese out of Harlem Meer or the nine geese from the boat lake or even the family of geese who were at the south pond over the summer.
I believe CP simply signed a contract with a goose harassment company, whether the harassment was needed or not.
And of course a contract is a contract.
My building contracts with an exterminator who comes around every month even though I and presumably my neighbors have no bugs.
A contract is a contract...
The problem is that geese are not roaches or bedbugs that one would want to totally eradicate from a home.
But, yet the geese are being treated like roaches or bedbugs.
"Eradication," as the article posted yesterday proclaimed.
Today the news is filled with stories of 9-11 and new threats of possible terror attacks.
I think of a conversation I had with a friend shortly after 9-11 ten years ago.
"As long as I see geese and ducks peacefully swimming at Central Park, I always feel that everything is OK and that there is always hope."
I don't see geese peacefully swimming in Central Park anymore.
Even worse, the "vigilance and patrols" we hear so much about these days are directed not so much against human terrorists with evil intent, but innocent people on subways -- and most notably,  the peaceful Canada geese in our city parks.
"Hope" for me, has left with the chasing of the last goose from Central Park. -- PCA


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