Sunday, August 5, 2012

"Watch Out! There's A Goose in the Water!" (and other, Quick Takes)

"Watch out!  There's a goose in the water!"

While I have not yet heard the above warning from anyone in Central Park, I fully expect to one of these days -- assuming there are still any resident geese left in our city parks a few years from now.

I have however, heard other animal warnings from people and they always startle me.

"Look out, Ma'am, there's a raccoon up ahead!" 

"I would not go there, Miss!  There is a rat in the area!"

One should be grateful and appreciative of the good intentions and warnings of others.  But somehow I never am.  Rather, I find the warnings both, annoying and depressing.

My typical response to those warning about raccoons is,

"So?  As long as we don't bother them, they won't bother us!"

My response however the other night to the worker from the Delacourt Theatre warning me of a rat around Turtle Pond was less "kind."

"Do I look like I am afraid of animals?  Its a park for crying out loud!   One expects animals to be here."

The woman, taken aback, muttered, "I was only trying to be helpful."

(Admittedly, that little snappy, rude exchange occurred shortly after I returned from finding the Boat Lake almost entirely devoid of geese despite the two goose families who had been there for the past two months.  One could say I was not in the mood to be warned about the "dangers of wildlife.")

Such "help" to me is like someone on a city block warning, "Look out!  There is a poodle up ahead!"

How far have we disconnected from nature and animals that even the presence of a raccoon or small rat in a park sends us into a tizzy of dire fear and warnings to others?

What would such people have done two years ago the night I rejoiced on seeing a coyote in Central Park?   
"Oh my God!  A coyote!  Call out the National Guard!" 

"Look out, Ma'am, there is a goose in the water!"

Yes, I fully expect to hear that one day.

But, that is to be extraordinarily optimistic that there will still be a few resident geese around Central Park a year or two from now.

"Private Firms" in the business of killing park wildlife.

Very disturbing news out of New Jersey today:

(Kudus to the Animal Rights advocates investigating and protesting this brutal goose slaughter.)

The very troubling part of this article is learning that the community hired a "private firm" to round up and gas the geese.

(I personally was not aware there were "private firms" that were in the business of killing geese or other wildlife from neighborhoods and parks.)

Learning this news brings to mind a recent and disturbing conversation with a woman in Central Park who told me geese had been rounded up from The Reservoir a few years ago and taken away. 

The woman based this upon information given her by a purported "eyewitness."  

At the time, I dismissed the report because Central Park has never been listed as a site of a USDA goose cull.  

But, now I am forced to wonder if the information shared might actually have been correct?

In former conversations with USDA officials, when asked why USDA had never rounded up geese from Central Park, I was told,  "Central Park has its own management program for the geese."

I was aware (and assumed this referred to the fact)  that Central Park has in place a program of harassment and egg addling of geese (as written of yesterday).  

But,  could it in fact, be more?

Another woman at Central Park told me recently that when questioning the sudden disappearance of many mallards from the Boat Lake a year or two ago, a food vendor told her that ducks had been rounded up and taken away because they were considered a "nuisance."

Once again, it is very difficult to believe these stories especially coming from second hand "witnesses."

But, the news about private firms in the business of rounded up and killing park animals now gives food for thought and possible credence  to such stories, as incredible as they seem. 

Over the past two months, I have been wondering of the seeming disappearance of several families of raccoons that had lived near and around Harlem Meer for at least a couple of years.

I recently asked Central Park Conservancy officials about this and was told nothing was done with the raccoons.

But, knowing how fearful many people are of raccoons, (as earlier described)  I seriously have to wonder?  -- Especially noting that the raccoons seemingly vanished during the period of heaviest human activity. 
(Normally, human activity attracts raccoons because of the extra garbage and "food" left behind.)

Additionally, raccoons generally don't move around a whole lot from their home base.

I always knew where to see raccoons in Central Park.  But, now in the area they were most prevalent, I don't see any.

Sometimes the more one learns, the more paranoid one becomes.

"Private firms" in the business of rounding up and destroying park wildlife via contract.

This gives whole new dimension to the term, "paranoid."

Or is it just one more ugly reality that we now need to be aware of and possibly have to confront? 

"Knowledge can be a dangerous thing."

Sometimes, the more one learns, the less one actually knows.

When first embarking on this quest to observe, learn and write about Canada geese (and other waterfowl) in our parks, the goals were mostly those of a naturalist, photographer or researcher to discover and share the wonders of nature with self and others.

It is fascinating after all, watching and learning how animals naturally communicate, interact, construct a social order, mate, rear young, migrate and otherwise survive a sometimes hostile and challenging world.

But, more and more those goals of studying the natural became instead, lessons in learning about the unnatural.

The "unnaturals" of goose harassment, egg destruction, roundups and killings.

As has been demonstrated time and time again and especially over the past couple of weeks, it is impossible to know what is actually "natural" and what is not and especially when the object of study is Canada geese.

The recent mysteries of "loner geese" for example.

Ultimately, it's been impossible to know whether these birds were results of natural occurrences (a gosling becoming lost from family on a first flight, for example) or that the animals were rather, survivors of recent goose culls or even geese who became separated from flocks during a goose harassment operation.

Nor do I know if the two goose families who recently left the Boat Lake in Central Park flew away on their own natural will or were rather chased away via harassment. 

Now today, I learn that recent stories told to me (and at the time seeming so far fetched and unbelievable) could actually be true as there are private companies in the business of rounding up and killing community or park wildlife by contract.  

Yes, the more one learns, the less one actually knows for certain.

I am not sure if knowledge is actually a "dangerous" thing as much as it ultimately illustrates to us  how much we actually don't know at all.   -- PCA


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