Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Summer of Hell for Geese and Other Parks Wildlife

Papa goose,(center) keeping watch over his flock two weeks ago at the Boat Lake.
The male domestic duck at Boat Lake -- now suffering loss of his mate.
This is the summer of hell in New York City.
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No, I am not talking about scorching 90+ degree temperatures and swamp-like humidity over the past week.
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I am taking about government sponsored goose massacres -- along with loss, injury and endless harassment to other park wildlife.
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We lost Papa goose this past week at the Boat Lake in Central Park.
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My friend, Liliana, found Papa last Wednesday, seemingly disoriented and wandering along a pedestrian path in the Rambles (which is adjoined to the Boat Lake). 
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Alarmed, when grabbing Papa and finding what appeared to be an infected wound under his wing covered in maggots, Liliana called the Park Rangers for assistance.
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Fortunately, a park ranger shortly arrived with a carrier and transported Papa to the Wild Bird Fund on Columbus Avenue.
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Papa was cleaned up and initially treated for what appeared to be an infected dog bite wound.
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But, shortly thereafter, Papa died before a second examination (for lead and other contaminates) could be conducted.
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(Apparently, the Wild Bird Fund has two other geese, one of whom is being treated for "high lead" contaminants and was initially confused with Papa. Liliana was mistakenly told that the "high lead" goose was Papa.)
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It was obviously a bad sign that Papa was found wandering by himself away from his flock.
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As leader of the 12 molting geese at the Boat Lake this summer, Papa's entire being was completely devoted to them. -- Papa would never leave his gaggle unless something was seriously wrong.
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I called the Wild Bird Fund today and finally got word of Papa's passing.
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Unfortunately, geese (and other animals) are very good at hiding their pain until (in many cases), it is too late to save them.
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Neither Liliana nor myself had any inkling that Papa was suffering any injury or illness, as he was always alert, responsive, in command of his flock and extremely social.
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Since the wound (and maggots) were under the wing, they were not detectable on casual observation.  
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We grieve the loss of this majestic, proud, magnanimous and always loving gander who (in my case) had been observed and revered since he and his mate, "Mama" raised six goslings in Turtle Pond in the summer of 2010.  (Papa is the goose pictured with his goslings on my Facebook badge.)
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Sadly, Mama too, was lost over the past year, but not from Central Park.  We don't know what happened to Mama as she has not been seen since the flock left Central Park last August after regaining their flight feathers. 
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Neither, Mama nor Papa were young geese.  I had been told by another wildlife observer that the devoted pair had tried to bear young at Turtle Pond for many years before finally being successful.  (In years previous and since, Mama and Papa's eggs had been oiled.)
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I am glad that Mama and Papa had been able to successfully raise one gaggle of goslings.
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It is mostly these grown offspring and a few other geese who survive at the Boat Lake today. 
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But, they are surely grieving the loss of their Papa and flock leader.
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When going to the Boat Lake the other morning, the flock, for the first time, remained on the Island rock in the middle of the lake and did not come to greet me.  It is a time of loss and mourning for them.
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But, geese are not the only birds mourning loss at the Boat Lake these days.
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The female of the two domestic ducks at the Boat Lake for the past year also vanished last week and is now presumed dead.  Her mate, (obviously distressed) searched and frantically called for her over a period of several days, but now seems to be attempting to assimilate himself with the mallards and remaining geese at the Boat Lake.
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Life, for animals in nature, does not allow for long times grieving loss. They have to adapt and seek new ways for survival as is evident from the loner goose, Cago, at Harlem Meer during the molt. Cago obviously and recently lost his mate or flock, (probably to a USDA cull) but has had to make do by assimilation with ducks.
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And so, the death toll and injury to Central Park waterfowl continues to rise this spring and summer, despite New York City's most prestigious park not succumbing to an actual USDA goose cull.
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We have now lost Wiggly and Honker, (two of the domestic ducks at Harlem Meer), the female domestic duck from the Boat Lake, a goose at Harlem Meer in the spring ensnared with fishing line and tackle around bill and worst of all, Papa goose.
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And to add further misery to all this, there is a reported Double Breasted Cormorant at the Boat Lake this morning with dangling fishing line hanging from his bill.
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All of this has again been reported to Central Park Conservancy.
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Of course, it is not the Conservancy's fault that some fishermen and dog owners continue to flaunt park rules and treat the wildlife of our parks as if the animals are solely there for harassment and/or the taking.
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But, I have been assured that enforcement patrols will be assigned to the Boat Lake  (where some dogs owners encourage their dogs to charge at the waterfowl in the lake) and that long overdue Fishing Rules signs will finally be posted at this location (as they already are at Harlem Meer.)
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Sadly, it always seems to require actual documented death of wildlife to finally get things done as was the case with the fishing rule sign posting at Harlem Meer last year.
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While a Park Ranger has  been assigned to the Boat Lake to search and try to save the Cormorant, reality is that these birds are particularly difficult to capture.
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Prevention is the key to saving wildlife in our parks, because, as noted, by the time the animals are weak enough to be captured, they are usually too ill or injured to be saved -- as tragically was the case with Papa.
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The temperatures continue to rise in New York City with little relief in sight.
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And though wildlife may be stressed and discomforted with extremes in weather, the real threats come to the animals in our parks, not from nature, but walking predators on two legs.
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This truly is the "summer of hell" in New York City -- even in a park, that otherwise, has the gumption  to stand up to deliberate and brutal government sponsored wildlife massacres. 
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Bring us back the peace and tranquility of bitter winter cold and winds -- the time when the two-legged predators finally leave and the birds and other wildlife of our parks need only worry about dealing with the elements.
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Elements nature well equips them to handle. -- PCA 
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3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Oh, how sad I am to read this.... RIP, Papa. Thank goodness for the kind people who tried to help you, and for those like Patty and Liliana who had your back always.

Mary Castrovilla said...

Oh, Patty and Lillian,
So very sorry to hear about Papa...F***king dog bite...WHAT is wrong with PEOPLE!!

rebecca said...

Tears for Papa and all the tragedies in NY, but it seems that geese aren't safe anywhere now. Almost every day I read of some mass slaughter by the USDA on these innocent geese. I just don't know why there are so many ruthless people using their power to wipe out our precious geese. They are the most noble creatures I have ever had the honor to be around and get to know. My heart is breaking. I am working hard along with other wildlife advocates here in Gaston County NC to stop the park officials ane the USDA responsible for gassing 144 of our precious geese at Dallas park on June 25 from ever being able to do this again.