Friday, May 18, 2012

Tasks and Facts for Saving our Geese from Indefensible Massacre

We who care about saving any of our park and Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge Canada geese have our work cut out over the next the next two months.
First, there is the need to organize volunteers to monitor target parks in the early mornings (or if possible view from a window) in order to document and report USDA trucks showing up for goose roundups.  One must have camera or cell phone capable of recording photos and video.  Any sightings of USDA trucks arriving from mid June through late July need to be immediately reported to (27) GooseWatch NYC  by directly calling 567-NY-GOOSE (567-694-6693). 
Unfortunately, though more than 3,000 Canada geese have been rounded up and killed from city parks throughout all five boroughs over the past three years, there is little photographic and video recordings of these exceedingly cruel and indefensible events.
That needs to change for both the sakes of the victims and the transparency of the government, specifically, USDA "Wildlife Services." 
Recently, David Karopkin of  requested from the USDA that a representative of Goosewatch be able to videotape and photograph goose roundups for the sake of public transparency.  He was informed by a USDA official that such would be "stressful" to the geese.
It is apparently acceptable for the geese to be stressed during roundups, cramming into turkey crates and slaughter, but its not OK for them to be "stressed" by someone taking photos.
This is the kind of irrational thinking and secrecy and that needs to be challenged over the next two months. 
"Those who have nothing to hide, hide nothing."
We need to document the planned goose roundups set to occur throughout all five boroughs starting next month.  Almost all of New York City, (including Central Park) is within the "kill zone" for geese.   If you are able to help monitor your local park in the early mornings, please join facebook page (27) GooseWatch NYC and or text:  NYGOOSE TO 556-78.
Another major challenge before us is MEDIA COVERGE AND RESPONSE 
Sometimes people express grief and frustration over what is happening to geese, but they don't know what to do, who to protest to or what to say.
This is unfortunate because the geese are repeatedly demonized in the press and have been for the last three years.
We need to be able to effectively respond to the all the accusations, exaggerations, misinformation, comments and questions.
 What follows henceforth are tips and suggestions for writing Letters to Editors and/or commentary to published articles.
1-- Keep commentary factual, concise and to the point. Choose a particular focus and keep to the focal point.  An excellent example of this is a recently published letter from the Times Union:
2--Be careful of unintended offense to particular groups or humans in general.  Any comparisons of animal abuse and human atrocity offend large groups of people and result in alienation. Terms like "murder," "holocaust" or "enslavement" are lightening rods for offense.  Every atrocity is unique in its own terrible way and has special place in history.  It is usually not helpful to compare or mix them with issues we may be fighting for now.  
An example of this is an excellent Op Ed piece recently published that unfortunately uses the term, "Holocaust."
 Although the writer is technically correct in usage of the word by definition,  ("Great destruction resulting in extensive loss of life") the otherwise excellent piece draws criticism from some understandably upset over use of the term and its usual association with the murder of six million Jews during WW 2.   Such errors in sensitivity distract from the actual issues and can dilute and distort a writer's message and intent affecting credibility.  We have to be especially sensitive to the sufferings and trauma of other people.
3-- Avoid personal criticism of particular individuals or groups of people. Don't mix goose issue with other "left" or "right" winged causes and try to avoid any subtle or outright insults to individuals or groups. It is common particularly on comment sites that others of different view will resort to condescending name-calling and personal attack ("You're an idiot." "You don't know what you're talking about.")  Try not to take the bait.  If possible to reply with humor, irony or fact, proceed.  But, usually it is best not to be dragged into pointless, infantile jabs that detract from the issue and challenges at hand.
Speaking of facts, following are important facts to incorporate into any contacts with media, the public or politicians. 
FACT:  The most common complaint against resident Canada geese is, "They don't go anywhere!" (i.e. "make a mess.")  Like almost all allegations against geese, this one is highly exaggerated, but has small element of truth.  Resident geese do in fact, move.  But, they move very little. Bands placed on resident geese indicate that the average Canada goose stays within two miles of its birth place Because they are heavy birds, flying expends much more energy in Canada geese than smaller birds. This fact is very important when addressing the argument that resident Canada geese are a "threat to airliners." 
Resident Canada geese, "pond hop."  They may typically fly from a park lawn to a nearby pond, usually a short distance. In winter, resident geese may be forced to find open water if lakes and ponds freeze over. But, even then they will seek the closest area possible. In spring Canada geese will seek desirable areas for possible nesting. Such areas have to provide good coverage and be reasonably close to water.  Usually they are easy to find in the local park. The same is true in summer when geese seek good food sources and safety during the molt.  For all of these activities, resident Canada geese are usually able to fulfill all of their needs year round by staying in the same general area
Resident Canada geese simply do not expend and waste flying energy if they don't have to. Because they fly short distances, resident Canada geese usually do not obtain the necessary altitude to represent any kind of "threat" to airliners. Resident Canada geese, barely fly over the trees in our city parks and one wildlife refuge. The "threat to airliners" is therefore nearly zero and this is born out by actual statistics from the NTSB which indicate Canada geese to be extremely far down on the list of birds that collide with airliners. (Seagull and starlings are the birds most sucked in by jet engines.)
FACT: Currently, 0.68% (less than one percent) of the hundreds of millions of flights occurring,  result in a collision with wildlife of any kind. Of these, none have resulted in recent loss of human life in the United States.

Additionally, following the Miracle on the Hudson,  the NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board)  issued 33 recommendations for avoidance of bird strikes -- none of which mentioned wildlife eradication. What should (if at all) be a last resort measure - killing animals - is being done as a first step: 
Finally, killing animals is no guarantee for safety.  As Ida Sanoff points out in her excellent Op-Ed: The Bird Holocaust Is Coming To Jamaica Bay! | Sheepshead Bay News Blog, other animals will fill the vacuum created which could potentially exacerbate the threats and create other problems
FACT: Resident Canada geese fly low.  Migratory geese (and other migratory birds) fly high.  According to the Smithsonian Institute which tested feathers, The two geese sadly sucked into the engine of Flight 1549 "Miracle on the Hudson" on January, 15, 2009 were migratory geese from Labrador, Canada. The incident occurred at 2800 miles altitude and it is speculated the high flying migratory birds were seeking open water area during frigid weather.  But, the salient fact in this near tragedy, is that even had New York City killed ALL of its resident geese prior to the January 2009 incident, that would not have prevented it from occurring.  And the fact that we are attempting to wipe out all our resident Canada geese now will NOT prevent another airliner from having to ditch in the river following a bird strike.
The fact is, we could kill every resident bird in New York City and that would not prevent a "bird strike" with any one of millions of migratory birds that pass through New York City and the Atlantic Flyway every year.
FACT:  High flying, migratory Canada geese were not Flight 1549's only problem. The airliner that ditched in the Hudson on January 15, 2009 suffered mechanical issues (engine stall) only two days before and almost had to emergency land. (The particular plane model had tendency towards this problem.):    Passengers report scare on earlier US Airways Flight 1549 - CNN   Perhaps had this incident and the passengers' trauma been taken  seriously resulting in the aircraft being grounded, two geese would still be alive today and the Miracle on the Hudson never would have occurred.  
FACT:  According to some experts, bird strikes are more common than what is actually reported. However, following the Miracle on the Hudson incident, bird and plane collisions are reported far more now than in the past. This unfortunately gives journalists, politicians and the general public the impression that bird strikes are dangerously "increasing" at an alarming rate.
There are several reasons to expect more bird strikes. 
1-- The sheer increase in air traffic volume. (i.e. more planes, more strikes.)
2-- Faster and quieter planes.  (Birds unable to get out of the way fast enough or hear oncoming jet.)
3-- Planes flying lower when arriving to or departing from NYC. ("Next Gen" technology.)
But, even if assuming that bird strikes are being "under reported" (which is particularly doubtful in NYC following famous Hudson incident) this would merely give further credence to the argument that modern airliners are able to withstand virtually ALL bird strikes without human casualty.
FACT:  Not one person has lost his or her life on a commercial airliner due to a Canada goose.
One might ask, "What is all the fear, targeting and hysteria about?"   And why are resident Canada geese being punished and wiped out for something they never did and likely never will according to the biological and life patterns of these birds?
FACT: Resident Canada geese are easy targets and scapegoats due to their inability to fly during the six weeks of the molt. Canada geese are completely defenseless -- and especially when unable to escape by flight.  Canada geese have no fangs or claws with which to defend themselves and they cannot run. The hapless geese are therefore extremely "easy prey" for low level USDA "Wildlife Services" employees to corral, cram into turkey crates and shove into trucks.  Easy pickings, easy money and easy (but completely ruthless and unjustifiable) slaughter.
There is in fact, no excuse in the world to defend what has occurred in New York City for the past three years -- least among them "airline safety."
FACT: The main reason for this carnage is protection from lawsuits should any plane go down as result of a bird strike.  And even though the chances of this occurring are extremely remote and miniscule as pointed out by the evidence, such possible catastrophe would result in millions of dollars of lawsuits against the city, the FAA, NTSB,  airline carrier and possibly others.  Government and industry needs to be able to say we "took reasonable measures" to avoid such tragedy. 
The problem is that any good attorney could look at the evidence regarding resident Canada geese and rightly claim that such "measures" of eradication of a non-threatening, barely flying bird were not "reasonable" at all, but rather a smokescreen.  
FACT:  Technologies already exist (Merlin Avian Radar, for one) and more need to be developed that can predict and avoid possible bird strikes.  But, first the will and the investment needs to be there. Recently, thousands of aerospace engineers and scientists lost jobs due to the disbanding of the space shuttle program. Great minds could be put to noble deeds in the researching and designs of new technologies that could potentially avert bird strikes all together.  Nothing is impossible in this technically advanced age. Mass killings of birds however, is not any kind of "technologically advanced" solution. Rather it is the "kill everything that moves on four feet or flies" seeming mentality of the USDA "Wildlife Services"  recently exposed in a series of investigative articles by the Sacramento Bee
Conclusion:  These facts and many more lay evidence to the claim that the killings of thousands of resident Canada geese in New York City have neither justification nor factual defense and will do absolutely zero in helping to insure any kind of "airline safety." -- PCA

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