Monday, December 31, 2012

"Slip Sliding Away" -- Bring on the Ice, New Year and Geese!

(Photo: 1-- The geese arriving in time for New Year celebration!   2 and 3-- Some geese and ducks sitting, with feet tucked under on the ice. -- Apparently a way of conserving heat or avoidance of slips on ice.)

Almost as if to celebrate the New Year arrival and celebration in Central Park, at least a dozen Canada geese flew into Harlem Mere yesterday!

Surprised and delighted to finally note some geese at the Mere, the hope now is that they hang around a while -- at least to help keep an open pool of water for the six domestic ducks who are incapable of flight when the going gets tough and the lake freezes over.

We had a little snow in New York City a couple of days ago. 

And while none of it stuck to city streets, pedestrian paths in Central Park were slick last night with a thin covering of ice and chunks of the frozen stuff.

It was presumably the first time the four new domestic ducks at the Mere ever saw snow or had to deal with it. 

They were not at all pleased.

Although the two blonde and two black ducks quickly and noisily hopped up on the embankment in search of treats, they appeared put off and confused by the icy ground and after only grabbing a few bites of cracked corn, immediately returned to the water.

Mallards and geese too, were apparently chilled and intimidated by the slippery ice. Several of them sat down, stretching out their necks to grab seeds on the ground. -- Something I have become accustomed to seeing during extremely cold weather.  Perhaps it is a way of the birds conserving heat when on frigid or icy ground.

One thing I am not seeing barely at all since the cold set into New York City, are the typical "barroom brawls" of ducks chasing or going head to head with one another.  It seems that hierarchy displays go out the window when the first real challenges of winter set in.

Winter is the time the birds (and other wildlife) have to get serious in terms of actually cooperating with each other and figuring out a game plan for survival.  Expending energy to assert dominance and position just isn't in the cards during the frigid days of winter as it is other times of the year.

"All for one and one for all" is more the motto for waterfowl this time of year.

It is the time for hunkering down, getting serious and working together for the betterment and survival of the whole.

"We will get through this together!" they seem to say -- as do most humans, when there is crisis and challenge.  In that sense, humans and animals are not that different.

Although I usually like to linger a while observing and enjoying my time with feathered friends, the wind chills and 28 degree temperature quickly froze my hands though only out of gloves a few minutes to take photos.

I am not really sure how the birds and other animals endure 24/7 freezes in winter, but in that sense, we humans are seemingly not like the animals at all.

A couple of hours in below freezing temperatures is about all I personally can take.

Fortunately, my two ("cold weather") dogs take the ice and cold a great deal better than I do.

Tina and Chance scampered along cheerfully on the ice, while I carefully measured every step like some old lady nervous about breaking a hip. --  "Help, I've fallen and can't get up!"

I wondered last night when watching some of the geese and ducks sitting on the ice, if any of them have the same fear?

Walking home along the frozen Reservoir Path I thought about the people who gather there every New Year's to watch the Central Park fireworks in the distance and the joggers who do the "midnight run" along the park drive.

Instead of walking or running shoes, they might better wear their ice skates! I chucked to myself.

"Slip sliding away."

And don't the geese and ducks already know -- and are preparing for that?  -- PCA


Sunday, December 30, 2012

Rough Days for Ducks and Geese

A veil of ice has already begun to form around perimeters of Harlem Mere -- though below freezing temperature have not quite settled over New York City yet.

But, that is projected to occur during the upcoming week.

Unlike last winter when there were nearly 200 ducks and Canada geese at the Mere, this year, there are barely 50 - 75 mallards at Central Park's most northern lake and (at this point) only one Canada goose and one swan.

That is not enough birds to prevent the lake from entirely icing over during the next few days or weeks.

Presumably, the mallards, swan and goose currently at the Mere will leave to search for open water and that will leave the six domestic (flightless) ducks to deal with a frozen lake on their own.

I am more than concerned about this situation.  As noted previously, only one of the current domestic ducks has previously endured winter at the Mere -- and that was with roughly 200 other birds there. (Last winter was unusually mild in NYC, possibly explaining the larger duck and goose population then.) That will simply not be the situation this year.

So far, the six domestic ("barn") ducks have survived hurricane Sandy, a Nor'easter and numerous rain storms.

But, those were temporary stressors and did not represent the persistent, daily grind of bitter temperatures and wind chills, low food supplies and most of all, a lake transformed into a solid block of ice.

Add to that, the threat of dogs allowed by foolish and irresponsible owners to run freely on ice.  The ducks will lose the normal "safe haven" of open water, a situation that resulted two years ago of a domestic Pekin duck (Joey) attacked by a dog on the ice and left for dead.  

Fortunately, Joey was successfully rescued, treated at the Wild Bird Fund  and later adopted to a Connecticut home.

I don't of course know what will happen.  I am hoping that most of the mallards stay and that some migratory Canada geese fly in. Perhaps among them all working together, a small pool of water could remain open.

But, that is appearing more unlikely by the day.

Already it seems, some mallards have left.

I am not sure why we suddenly have one "loner" Canada goose at Harlem Mere.

There was a heavy rain storm with strong winds a few nights ago and its possible the goose fell out of formation with its migrating flock and landed at the Mere.

The goose appears to be young and so far has been hanging with the mallards at the Mere.

But, it is certainly bizarre to be seeing only one goose in Central Park at a time, we would normally see hundreds.

Then again, considering all the shooting of migratory Canada geese in the fall and massacres of resident geese over the summer in NYC, such low and non-existent number should perhaps not be surprising.

Gun owners and hunters are always protesting any discussion or possibility of "taking our guns away."

But, its apparently OK for them to "take away" our wildlife -- and then brag about it.  "You put me under 200,000 birds and I guarantee something is gonna die!"

Or, perhaps the problem simply is that those who supposedly care about protecting nature and wildlife aren't quite so "loud" in saying so:

"We don't like assault rifles, but we would never take guns away from hunters!  Go ahead -- take all the wildlife you want."

But, even when those horrified over shootings of innocent children in schools or targeting of fire fighters on a job, roll over and capitulate to the demands of gun fanatics, it is never enough anyway.

So-called "gun control" is a fantasy in our nation.

Guns and weapons of all types will continue to be manufactured, sold and given away.

And both, innocent animals and humans will continue to pay the price:

Should I be greatly surprised to find only one Canada goose at Harlem Mere at a time there should be many?

Probably not.  Perhaps s/he is a lone survivor of a goose hunt.

Violence, death and dying are celebrated by many in our nation.

But, celebration of life is seemingly harder to find these days.

That one goose, one swan, hand full of mallards and six "barn yard" ducks currently at Harlem Mere are in for some rough days ahead.

The question is, will I be the only one to notice or care?  -- PCA


Friday, December 28, 2012

The Last Refuges (for Canada Geese)

I have a friend who tells me she never reads newspapers or watches the news.

"But, don't you want to know what's going on in the world?" I asked one day.

"Not really." she answered.  "Most of the news is too depressing."

Sometimes, when scouting various articles everyday or catching newscasts, I am inclined to agree with my friend.

But, not only is most news "depressing," but in many cases, it is downright vile.

Take for example, this article about Canada geese out of Denver, Colorado yesterday:

One is nearly at loss on what to say about this hateful diatribe and wonders in fact, how it was published by a supposedly "reputable" news source?

The writer of the piece seems to be carrying bolders on his shoulders and whatever his frustrations or paranoia with the world, has seemingly found easy projection and target in Canada geese.

It is difficult to believe that the most hated and feared species on the planet would be Canada geese, but according to this rant, Canada geese are "vicious predators" that need to be "gotten rid of" by any and all means. (Strange words for an animal that in nature, is mostly vegetarian, peaceful and deemed a "prey" species.)

It is hard to imagine that knowing how intelligent and perceptive geese are that any would be overly solicitous of the writer's affections (assuming the author has any).

Most animals are extraordinary intuitive about humans and have over the eons, sadly, learned to fear people.

But, geese seem to draw distinctions between their human friends and human enemies.

This might help explain many geese's tendencies to flee areas of heavy human hunting for the perceived "safety" of urban parks and golf courses. -- Areas where they are more likely to find human friends and are relatively free from flying bullets and arrows.

But, of course there are people like the writer of the above hysteria (and newspapers only too happy to publish hostile rhetoric and propaganda rather than actual facts).

How can geese possibly "know" about emotional disorders, projection and paranoia in some people?   Indeed, our own government is seemingly incapable of knowing the mental and emotional states of those purchasing high powered weapons and guns.

Makers of the "Goosinator" (the actual subject of this article) claim that the device is "humane" and will simply "send the geese back to their natural habitats."

But, considering that up to 60% of wetlands ("natural habitat") for geese has been destroyed and that rural areas are typically turned into shooting galleries, it is more likely that the "hazed" geese will simply flee to people's backyard lawns -- thereby opening up a whole new set of "complaints."

We claim in this country to "love and appreciate nature," but apparently not when it seeks natural habitat in areas we like to take over for ourselves.

We like to build lakefront homes and turn natural grassy areas into golf courses and parks with man-made lakes and ponds.

We then apparently go into a tizzy when realizing these are natural habitats for geese, ducks and other waterfowl.

What then to do about all these "vicious predators?"

Personally, I believe that if one is fearful or hostile towards whatever an area has to offer, one should avoid that area the same way one who is fearful of heights or elevators avoids high buildings.

But, if avoidance is not an option, then we might consider curtailing the hunting of geese in areas they would normally and naturally call "home" and concentrate on protecting our natural wetlands.

The reality is that urban parks have seemingly become the last refuges for many thousands of otherwise hunted and harassed Canada geese whose "natural habitats" have all but disappeared.

This past summer, even a supposedly real "refuge" was turned into a slaughterhouse for Canada geese. (Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.)

I would simply like to know from all these "goose haters" where the geese are supposed to GO?

Extinction and/or canned hunts are not acceptable answers.  
Canada geese were nearly hunted to extinction in the last

They are wiser now and so too, should we be.

As for "avoiding the news," I am not sure I am prepared to actually do that.

Occasionally, there are the positive and factual pieces that one would not want to miss -- such as this published today:

Perhaps wisdom, appreciation and tolerance are not quite dead yet.

But, we have to keep seeking and promoting them, both in real life and the printed word.  -- PCA


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Waterfowl Survival in Winter

Almost as on cue, frigid weather has arrived in New York City with the official first day of winter.

Revelers at Times Square will have a chilly night to ring in the New Year as the temperature is projected to be 20 degrees.

None of this is good news for the ducks at Harlem Mere in Central Park -- especially the six domestic (flightless) ducks.

With no geese at the Mere to help break up thin ice, the lake is sure to quickly freeze over.

If (or more likely when) that occurs, the mallards and one swan will leave in search of open water.

The six domestics will be on their own to deal with a frozen lake.

This concerns me for numerous reasons.

First, there is the matter that all the domestic ducks (with the lone exception of Wiggly) are new to the Mere and have not experienced a previous winter there.

Brad, who was mentor and leader of domestic ducks and who had survived several harsh winters at Harlem Mere is no longer there, having died this past September.

Wiggly, who wintered alongside Brad last winter, is somewhat of a "scatterbrain" and has demonstrated herself to be not much of a leader.  (Wiggly doesn't even stick with Honker, who is the same breed of duck as she.)

The other four domestics (pictured above) left at the Mere in November are to their credit, highly organized and always together.  However, they lack the experience of knowing what to do when the water starts to freeze -- and there is no Brad to show them.

Generally, the domestics need to concentrate on a small body of still open water and constantly swim in circles, dunking and diving in the process.   It appears to be a 24/7 duty and is likely exhausting for the birds, particularly if there is no other waterfowl around to help and share the work load.

Unlike last winter, this year there are no geese at Harlem Mere to "share the work load" and that is bad news for all the ducks, not just the domestics.

Fortunately, however, the mallards can fly away and seek open water on their own.  Most likely the ducks will search areas that have geese, as being larger and heavier than mallards, the geese are helpful in breaking up thin ice sheets.

Likewise, geese will often seek areas with ducks, as being smaller and faster than geese, mallards are helpful in keeping water open, once the geese have broken through ice.

The two species of waterfowl work cooperatively together in winter. 

Although each could probably survive without the other, the going is much easier if they are able to organize and delegate duties.

Mallards and other smaller waterfowl also look to geese for a sense of protection and early warning system of potential dangers.   Seeming to be the "sentries" of the waterfowl world, geese present to other birds, a sense of security. 

A few years ago, I observed a mother mallard who at night, gathered her ducklings to roost near a family of Canada geese.  Obviously, the geese represented to the mama mallard, safety and vigilance.  All of the mallard's 9 ducklings ultimately survived -- something highly unusual in the duck world (though not in geese).

Along with dealing with the stresses of trying to maintain or seek open water in winter, waterfowl also have to contend with lower food supplies.   Geese are proficient in digging through snow to dig out roots and seeds (which also aids ducks), but insects which are part of the normal goose and duck diet are rare in winter.

For that reason, I contend that (contrary to the hype) it is helpful and important to offer cracked corn, sunflower seeds and other nutritious foods to some of our struggling waterfowl in winter  -- especially any domestic ducks who appear to have higher nutritional needs than do the wild geese and mallards and who are lacking the same instincts for survival in winter.

It is after all, humans who abandon the domestic animals to our parks to fend for themselves in a partially wild environment. Those who dump animals, should also take on the responsibility to look after, but in almost all cases, they don't.

I know there are many who take issue with me on this perspective, but what the hell?

They can start their own journals.

I write what I have personally observed over a period of several years, not ideas, fantasies or someone else's propaganda.  -- PCA


Saturday, December 22, 2012

The "Thrill" of a Warm Gun

(Photos -- July 9, 2012, Jamaica Bay Wildlife "Refuge":  1-- USDA WS agents stuffing captured, flightless Canada goose to crate to send for slaughter. 2-- A goose who through the miracle of an early molt, was able to fly and escape the carnage  from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge this past summer.)

Maybe it is me, but it doesn't feel like Christmas this year.

Yes, the trees are up and the glittering lights. Crowds bustle in the streets and stores for last minute gifts.

But, somehow the music seems quelled, the sense of celebration is gone and I am not seeing Canada geese in any appreciable numbers in Central Park.

Last year at this time, there were nearly 100 migratory Canada geese at Central Park's Harlem Mere.

The geese arrived the first week in December and stayed until the last of the ice melted in mid February.

But, they are not at Harlem Mere this year.

There has been one gaggle of geese (comprised of seemingly two families) who come and go at the Mere over the past few weeks.   But, I am guessing these to be NYC resident geese due to their seeming familiarity with the environment and curiosity of people.

Perhaps they are survivors of the Jamaica Bay goose roundup conducted this past July?

Although 751 Canada geese were brutally captured from a so-called, "refuge"  by USDA "Wildlife Services" and sent to slaughter, there were reportedly a small number of geese who miraculously completed molting early and were able to fly away to safety. 

Perhaps this group of about 12 geese bouncing around Central Park now are part of the miracle few who escaped the horrific goose massacres of this past summer.

If that be true, the geese are like the "miracle pigeon" who recently survived the live "pigeon shoot" held every year in Pennsylvania::

Instead of celebrating peace and good will this time of year, it appears many in our culture revel in delivering terror and death to the innocent and defenseless.

Yesterday, an outdoors column from California extolled the "thrill" of the kill of Canada geese:

This seemed a strange piece for publication on the heels of one of the worst gun massacres (towards humans) in US history.

Then again, most people don't make the connection between violence towards animals and violence carried out against humans -- even the small and defenseless among us.

Those currently fighting for "gun control" in this country always make the point that they are not seeking to "take away guns from hunters."

I am all for taking guns away from hunters and am proud to say that.

This is no longer the pioneer days when some people had to shoot to eat.

These days one only need walk to the corner grocery store, restaurant or order over the phone, slaughtered remains of animals.

Currently, hunting is (in the shooters' own words) done for the "fun" and "thrill" of it.

But, we need to question how and why so many in our culture take delight and "thrill" in the wanton terrorization and destruction of the innocent?

Such seems more to smack of a kind of cultural meltdown as exemplified by acceptable sadism and/or other mental/emotional disorder than any "peace or good will."

This Christmas I wonder if I am not seeing the migratory geese in Central Park because most have been taken out by warped "thrill seekers" like the hunter who wrote the above column?

"We will not take guns away from hunters!"

Sign of the times, one might say.

But those times are not representative of any peace or good will.

And they certainly don't symbolize Christmas.  -- PCA


Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Murder of Innocence


One of the reasons I have been so impassioned in fighting for the lives of Canada geese is because of the beauty, innocence and devotion to family that these birds represent and epitomize.

And yet, particularly over the past few years, the gentle, peaceful geese (and their babies) have been rounded up in New York City and unceremoniously gassed or slaughtered.

Thousands of geese and their goslings have been violently killed with little justification and barely a line acknowledging the slaughters in newspapers.

But, violence in our nation is no longer limited to Canada
geese and animals in general.

This past week, violence entered an elementary school and within minutes, snuffed out the lives of innocent children and faculty that tried in vain to protect them.

Supporters of the semi-automatic guns used to conduct this carnage now proclaim the "solution" to school shootings is to have armed guards positioned at every school in the country.

How would that stop mass shootings that could occur in any place of public or child gathering?  

Should we have "armed guards" at playgrounds, parks, beaches, movie theatres, malls and churches?

Should our entire country be an armed fortress necessary to protect us, not from foreign invaders, but from our own people or disturbed teenagers?

The fact is that in a country of 330 million people, any individual can "go off" on a rampage anytime. 

And with powerful weapons easily available (without background checks) through the Internet, guns shows and irresponsible friends or parents, who is to say that Sandy Hook cannot in fact, happen anywhere?

The undisputable fact is that no one selling, providing or giving guns away can predict exactly how that gun will ultimately be used.

The gun could be used for suicide.  It could be used in the commission of a crime or murder. It might "accidentally" kill a child or loved one.  Or, it might be used in highly publicized mass shootings such as Virginia Tech, Columbine or Sandy Hook.

One thing we do know:  32 people die every day in this country as result of gun shot.

Some may argue that guns are the result, not the cause of things gone wrong in society.

That is true to the extent that guns are the tool that purveyors of violence mostly choose to inflict mayhem and death.

But, guns are not direct cause of the violence itself.

The violence is in fact all around us.

Its in movies, video games, TV and the Internet disguised and regarded mostly as "entertainment."   It in fact, saturates us in virtually every source of entertainment rendering a kind of acceptance and insensitivity to violence -- particularly among the young and impressionable.

And while the violence depicted in these sources is mostly created fantasy, there is also real violence -- particularly in our treatments towards other animals, of which Canada goose slaughters are just a small part.

Some have pointed to inadequacies in our mental health services as the main reason for the increase in mass shootings over the past decade.

True, such "services" leave much to be desired.  Other than the "system" pumping up emotionally disturbed adults or children with questionable "medications," there are not many options for those dealing with troubled intimates or those suffering mental and emotional woes.

(But, certainly if dealing with those circumstances, one should not be filling the house with powerful weapons as Nancy Lanzo did. -- Weapons that her son later used to bring mass murder to classes of Kindergarten children and their teachers.)

So it is true that guns may not be the direct cause of violence. 

But, they are the easy deliverers of it. -- The actual tool that takes violence out of the realms of fantasy and delivers it to the real world where people and their children actually live -- and die:

The murder of innocence.

I personally regard the roundups and slaughters of thousands of NYC park geese over the past few years as "the murder of innocence."

Our seeming paranoia of all things living (other than our own species) and our sense of power and entitlement to kill what we consider "inconvenient" has allowed us to invade places of otherwise peace, "safety" and tranquility to conduct insideous wildlife massacres.

But, some in our culture apparently draw no lines on what is acceptable to kill for sense of power and entitlement.

And powerful guns like the semi-automatic rifle used at Sandy Hook, provide the easy mechanism to do it.

There has been much discussion over the past few days of what parents should tell their children regarding school shootings.

One should first grieve (and feel some sense of alarm of) the necessity of having to discuss such unthinkable trauma and mayhem with small children in the first place.

But, then one should get rid of all the violent sources of "entertainment" in the home as well as and most importantly, the guns.

If parents and children need some "fun hobby" to do, then take the kids to the park to spend some time with the geese.  (That is, while we still have some geese left.)

Though my words may be clumsy and inadequate, a very fine piece was published today expressing much more eloquently what is said here and truly getting to the heart of the matter. --  A must read below:

Better to nurture the developing and vulnerable brain with natural images of peace, devotion and cooperation than those of manufactured and real violence.  -- PCA


Monday, December 17, 2012

Aftermath of Sandy Hook School Shootings

Awakened Consciousness?

One struggles to find words for the horror and heartbreak that so envelopes us over this past weekend.

Innocence destroyed.  Precious little lives terrorized and snuffed out even before they had truly begun to live.

Who could believe that in this day and age and in our great and civilized country we could ever see a day like this?   A day we could not protect our own children from the ravages of a crazed killer and our love affair with guns.

As written the other day, we have unfortunately become desensitized and "used to" gun shootings in our nation -- even mass shootings.

But, nothing could have prepared us for what occurred this past Friday in an elementary school in a quaint and peaceful Connecticut town. -- Nothing.

As President Obama said at a memorial services last night, we cannot tolerate as price for our freedoms, the lives of our most vulnerable and innocent.

One hopes those are not just hollow words.

While over the years I have been impressed with our President's skills as an inspirational and brilliant speaker, I have not been so impressed with his actual leadership skills. (President Obama has been weak on gun legislation and has actually signed into law, bills expanding gun rights.)

But it is hoped that the sheer atrocity of this past weekend has finally opened national eyes and awakened consciousness to needed actions. 

The 26 lives gunned down in madness this past Friday cannot go unheeded and unanswered.

We cannot allow these 20 beautiful and innocent children to have died in vain, as "price" for our selfish and irrational love of guns or our demands for freedom and entitlements without boundaries and at any costs.

"She Had a Passion of Animals"

The photos and all too brief bios of the murdered children of Sandy Hook are heart-searing.

It is impossible for any of us to truly understand the suffering and incalcuable loss of the parents and siblings of the children who have perished in such diabolical fashion. Indeed, there is hole in their hearts and lives that can never be filled and wound that can never be healed.

Parental statements often include the children's "love of animals."

One such example is a precious six-year-old girl named Catherine Hubbard, one of the victims of the December 14th massacre.

According to her bereaved parents, little Catherine had a "passion of animals" and hoped to open a shelter when she grew up.

Her parents have requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the local animal shelter in honor of their cherished daughter's name.

While not much, this is a small thing some of us can hopefully do to honor and mourn this precious little girl and help the animals she so loved.
The world is far less for her loss and the 25 others so brutally and prematurely taken.

Parental Responsibility

In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shootings, there has been much needed discussion about strengthening gun laws and better funding of our mental health care systems (which have been cut in recent years). 

Surprisingly, there has been little discussion about parental responsibility.

Although at this point little is actually known about the shooter and his motivations, what has been determined is that his mother was a "gun enthusiast" and kept multiple guns in the home -- including the high powered assault rifle used to kill 20 children and 6 adults at the Sandy Hook elementary school.

Nancy Lanza apparently took her son to gun ranges in order to teach him "respect" for guns and presumably how to shoot.

One cannot help but seriously question why a parent, knowing that his/her son has emotional issues or (according to the brother) a "personality disorder" would keep an arsenal of guns in the home?

That is like a parent of an alcohol or pot using teenager, stocking the home with heroin.

Reported by Piers Morgan of CNN, Adam Lanza also spent hours playing violent video games.

Perhaps it is no small (but sad) irony that Nancy Lanza ultimately became victim of her own guns in the hands of the son she apparently drew few if any limits for.

Only there were 26 other victims -- innocent victims who played no role in the nurturing of a walking time bomb.

Surviving victims and families of mass gun carnage should be able to sue the parents whose household guns end up as the ultimate weapons in mass shootings. -- PCA


Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Culture of Violence, Animal Cruelty and Guns

(Photo:  Canada goose in Central Park last night. A "threat" to human safety -- or a scapegoat for the real, life threatening problems facing us?)

Although this blog is dedicated and focused on wildlife issues -- particularly the current "war" on Canada geese, it is pertinent and relative to say some words about the violence and carnage that occurred in a Connecticut elementary school yesterday.

Sadly, news of mass shootings with high human casualty are no longer shocking or representing of "isolated incidents" in our country.

They have become almost part of the regular news feed.

We can consider no place entirely safe or "immune" from such catastrophic episodes.  They can occur in shopping malls, places of business, churches, movie theatres or even schools.

What seems noteworthy in the current news coverage of this particular incident is how the mass murder of 20 young children and 6 adults is mostly being referred to as a "tragedy."

True, the event is a "tragedy" but not in the same way that a natural tragedy (such as an earthquake, tsunami or hurricane) might take human lives.

This kind of tragedy is preventable.

When I was a child, there was no such thing as mass shootings in public places.

Any "drills" we had in school were to learn how to escape a possible fire.

Now, children barely old enough to learn their ABC's have to be aware and instructed on how to escape a potential mass murderer.

What is wrong in that picture?

While prayers and vigils might be helpful to some people, the fact is that God is not in Congress or the White House and nor is God producing and directing current forms of entertainment in our nation.

We seriously need to begin to address the causes of such mayhem and random carnage,  as well as the current cultural practices and values feeding into and sustaining it.

First on the list of causes is the fact we have become in many ways, a "culture of violence."

Violence is celebrated in movies, TV shows, books, video games and policies particularly regarding our relationships with animals.

To mature and mentally healthy persons able to decipher as "fantasy," violence in the virtual or entertainment worlds, this may not be such a pressing problem (though I personally have difficulty understanding any "positives" in this kind of brain altering and emotional blunting). 

But, for certain vulnerable, impressionable, delusional, depressive or mentally unbalanced people, (especially among the young) this endless exposure to violence can act as "triggers" to extremely anti-social and violent behaviors.

While freedom of speech and creative expression are cherished rights in our country, I also believe we need to take some hard looks at the kind of stuff that is being continually foisted upon our young and vulnerable as "normal and desirable." 

Parents, policy makers and those in the creative arts need to take some responsibility for the violent images we are constantly  exposing the youth in our country to. Those creative projects and government policies that somehow convey the message that violence is the acceptable way to address and solve problems absolutely play a role in some of the violence and murders we are seeing both in real life and upon our own species.

It is a provable fact that violence towards humans often has its roots and beginnings in animal cruelty. 

Studies conducted on serial killers for example show that most either tortured or killed animals as children.  According to the FBI, cruelty to animals is one of the three "red flags" (or markers) in children indicating mental instability and potential, future violence towards humans.

But, as a culture, we do not take animal cruelty seriously -- especially when exhibited by children.   Often parents and courts write off animal cruelty as "kids just being kids."

But, that needs to change -- as does what is passing for so much "entertainment" these days.

Whenever catastrophic mass shootings occur, there is usually the brief debate about guns that inevitably fades into oblivion as soon as the last reporter leaves the murder site.

That too, needs to change.

The NRA will of course use its old mantra, "Guns don't kill people, people do."

While it is true that millions of people own guns and most will never be involved in a crime, the fact is, when a powerful gun is sold, no one (including the NRA) can predict how exactly that gun will be used.

The gun might be used for target practice or shooting animals (again, highly questionable on the latter). It might also be used to commit suicide during a stressful moment or to kill a loved one in the heat of a dispute. Thousands of children and family members have been accidentally killed by guns.

Not only are guns almost always the weapon of choice in human murders and mass killings, but they are also the most efficient weapons in rendering quick death.

It would be impossible to kill 20 or more people in a matter of minutes with a knife or baseball bat.

While news of mass shootings have become almost routine in the United States, one would have to think long and hard to remember the last school or mall shooting in the UK or Canada (if indeed there have been any at all).  Most of Europe in fact has strong gun control laws and it is extremely rare to hear of the kind of gun-related mayhem that is now common in the states.

It was reported that when questioned yesterday on gun control, lawmakers in Congress stated, "Today is not the day to discuss that."

Probably the same thing they said the day the Columbine shootings occurred so many years ago.

Obviously to our NRA-bought lawmakers (both Republican and Democrat) such day for serious gun control in our country will never come.

It apparently doesn't matter how many people and now young children have to die -- as long as we can keep our culture of violence, animal slaughters and guns going -- while also saying our prayers.

Now, lets go and round up some "nuisance" geese for slaughter.

It is not guns or mentally deranged people who are the real "threat" to humans. 

It's the birds swimming in our local park lakes. -- PCA


Thursday, December 13, 2012

In Midst of USDA, Wildlife Services Goose Slaughters, One Small Victory

After weeks of not seeing any Canada geese at Harlem Mere, a dozen of them suddenly showed up last night.  They came (almost in defiance of latest Wildlife Services "goose removal report") onto the embankment and regarded me curiously. My heart swelled.

Small wonder I so love these seemingly clairvoyant and ever resilient birds..... 

Although supposed to be readily available public information, a colleague recently used Freedom of Information Request to obtain a copy of the latest Wildlife Services Goose Removal Report:

The report does not cover the 751 geese rounded up from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge (at the demand of a ruthless Senator Kirsten Gillibrand) nor the nearly 500 geese rounded up and sent to slaughter from Westchester.

Wildlife Services was apparently very busy this past summer in New York.  They stalked, harassed and ultimately rounded up more than 1500 defenseless geese (that we know of) to send to some mysterious upstate slaughterhouse.

Though comparatively short and only covering the 290 geese rounded up from New York City parks and golf courses, there is noteworthy information contained in the latest report.

The most troubling is the recommendation by USDA that NYC goose roundups not only be continued, but in fact, expanded to cover locations and times of the year when the geese are not molting and flightless.

The supposed rationale for expanded slaughters is that the geese only molt in specific and "safe" locations.

Apparently, WS desires a kind of free-for-all on goose slaughters. Any time of the year and any location.

It is of course, difficult to capture geese who can fly.

But, not for Wildlife Services who have at their disposal, rocket nets and drugs to stupefy and disorient geese who would otherwise fly and escape. Drugs that if placed on food to "bait" geese will likely impact and possibly even kill other wildlife.

This information is disturbing for numerous reasons, not the least of which is the uncertainty for bird and wildlife observers who regularly survey and count birds in our parks.

When flocks of Canada geese suddenly vanish, can we attribute this to natural circumstance or will we have to consider the possibility of unnatural USDA goose roundups?

Moreover, potential goose roundups conducted during times the geese can fly would likely victimize migrating Canada geese as well as so-called, "resident" geese.  Since we are actually talking the same species of bird, there is no way to tell by looking, the "difference" between a migrating Canada goose and a so-called, "resident" goose.

Although the report states that USDA captures "ten or more geese" at a location within five miles of an airport, actual data shows they rounded up "6" geese from Clearview Park and Golf Course on June 25th of this year. 

In the past when questioned on low number goose roundups, USDA has offered the explanation that fewer geese were at the location when rounded up than when first observed.  However, in this case, it is the same number of geese both surveyed and rounded up.

Since calls to USDA to question this have so far not been responded to, it is impossible to say this time what the possible excuse is for rounding up ONE family of 6 Canada geese for slaughter from a location.  --Six geese who did not pose any kind of "threat" to anything.

For a number of years, (including now) the USDA has been citing "between 20,000 and 25,000" Canada geese in the NYC metropolitan area.

And yet WS has rounded up and either sent for gassing or slaughter more than 4,000 NYC geese in just the past few

USDA claims their killing program to be "effective" in managing and lowering Canada goose numbers, but their own stats don't show evidence of that -- unless that "20,000 -25,000" figure is just an inflated smoke screen to convince the public, politicians and media of the "need" for USDA goose extermination services. 

Furthermore, although the USDA portrays the goose slaughters as a kind of "charitable" act by claiming the goose meat is distributed to "food banks" their own stats show that out of 290 geese slaughtered, only 258 lbs of so-called goose meat was dumped off on food charities.  --

That is less than one pound of meat per ten pound goose.  

USDA further fails to indicate whether these geese (who regularly consume grass sprayed with pesticides, fertilizers and insecticides) were tested in any way for PCB's, lead, mercury and other contaminates.  "Eat at your own risk" is the supposed watch word here, though its unclear if goose meat packaging actually says that.

To sum up, though only 8 pages long, the latest Goose Removal Report from USDA both, raises important questions and sets off concerning alarms (especially the call for expanded goose roundups other times of the year).

Indeed, the only "positive" note in all this carnage is that this year, USDA did not even survey Central Park (while "surveying" 78 other park locations around the city, including Prospect Park in Brooklyn -- the site of the infamous 2010 massacre of 372 geese).

USDA apparently and hopefully got the message that their Wildlife (extermination) Services are not welcomed in Central Park.

And last night, more than a dozen Canada geese flew into Harlem Mere in Central Park to celebrate a small kind of victory.   -- PCA


Saturday, December 8, 2012

If Not Audubon, then Who (to Defend Canada Geese)?

Sometimes it seems the whole world is either hostile to or completely ignorant about Canada geese.

That statement would now appear to include the Audubon Society, a national bird conservation organization.

This article from Maryland yesterday would not be unusual in terms of complaint and vitriol about Canada geese -- with the exception of statements attributed to the Audubon Society.

According to the journalist, the Audubon Society "Would support a program.... where the geese would be rounded up, butchered and donated to the Maryland Food Bank."

Disturbed about this revelation, I called Mike Callahan who is President of the Maryland chapter of the Audubon Society and was quoted in the article.

Apparently, Mr. Callahan had not even read the article until my phone call.

However, after reading the piece, Callahan assured me that he had been misquoted and taken out of context.

"I spoke to the reporter a long time and discussed many things with her." Callahan told me. "I discussed non-lethal options and said that a roundup would only be appropriate as a last resort."

"Mr. Callahan, with all due respect, that is not how the article reads." I replied.  "It doesn't matter what you discussed with her. You might have discussed movies or reality TV.  What matters is what is actually published and what the people read. According to this article, Audubon supports a USDA roundup and slaughter of the geese as the desired first option.  That is immensely damaging not only to the 50 geese in this Maryland location, but geese all over the country.  USDA has rounded up and either sent to slaughter or gassing thousands of geese from New York City alone in the past few years and there is nothing humane about it."

"I had no idea USDA rounded up geese," Callahan responded defensively. "I thought it would be Fish and Wildlife."

"Where have you been over the past ten years?" I asked, incredulously.  "Geese have been rounded up by USDA and gassed or slaughtered from all over the country.  Surely, you read about the 370 geese gassed from Prospect Park in 2010.  That was reported in the New York Times and went national."

"I know nothing about that." answered Callahan -- though he was aware of flight 1549, the plane that landed in the Hudson after colliding with two Canada geese in January of 2010.

"Well, thousands of NYC resident geese have been slaughtered since that incident -- even though it involved migratory geese from Labrador, Canada, not local, resident geese." I said.  "The fact is, we could have killed every goose in the United States and it would not have prevented that near disaster."

"That is very interesting to know." Callahan replied, curiously.

Several times in the conversation, Callahan attempted to divert the topic to something else -- such as overpopulated deer or pet cats who kill millions of birds every year.

"Sir, I did not call you about elephants, deer or cats who kill birds.  I agree that responsible pet owners don't let their cats out to either decimate wildlife or be killed themselves by cars or coyotes. But, that is not the issue here.  Canada geese are and your quoted statement on what to do about them."

"I never said the geese should be slaughtered," Callahan asserted. "I considered roundup only as a last resort."

"Well, if that is the case, then you need to call the reporter and newspaper to demand correction and retraction.  The facts are the facts.  She reported Audubon as supporting a USDA cull. How will that go down with your boss?"  (Audubon takes no official position on USDA goose roundups.)

Callahan agreed to call the reporter to request correction.

There are many things which are immensely disturbing and frustrating in this particular incident.

First, there is the issue of lazy, misleading, and irresponsible reporting and editing on the part of the press.  (Unfortunately, that is nothing new.)

I personally believe Callahan when he claims he spoke to the journalist a long time and primarily advocated for non-lethal measures to manage goose population.  

But, none of that was in the published article.

Rather, what was quoted in the printed and online article was that Audubon "supported" a USDA cull of geese and that geese sometimes get hit by cars (thereby depicting the geese as both, nuisance and threat.)

When Callahan brought up the issue of car accidents to me, I reminded him that all sorts of animals get hit by cars -- including cats and dogs.  But, we don't advocate for rounding up and killing millions of animals to "save" them from car collisions. (Considering how slowly geese walk, any car collision would likely be the fault of the driver.)

Perhaps it was the intent of the journalist and newspaper to depict the geese in as negative a light as possible.   (It is, for example, difficult to perceive of 50 geese dispersed among a number of ponds as a truly "dense population" that needs to be "thinned."  Flock birds like geese often congregate in nature by the hundreds or even thousands.)

But, Callahan was apparently a willing participant in the deception and distortion and his apparent lack of knowledge on the actual issue led him to "support" something he actually knew nothing about -- USDA roundups of geese.

When I told Callahan that geese are typically crammed 4 to 6 in turkey crates and transported hundreds of miles to slaughter by USDA, he claimed to have no knowledge of methods or even that Wildlife Services conducted these roundups at all.

So, we basically have a situation of Audubon Society supporting something it knows zero about.

Obviously, this is the other thing hugely disturbing about the incident.

How does a national bird "conservation" organization know "nothing" about USDA goose roundups and slaughters conducted all over the country?

It seems laziness and irresponsibility are not just adjectives to be thrown at the press.

Canada geese are in fact betrayed by those who portend to be their advocates.

It leaves open the question of who then is left to defend and demand their protection? -- PCA