Friday, September 2, 2011

Urgent Call to Action -- Counting NYC Goose Numbers, A Simple, but Vital Task

Can you help count geese in NYC parks this Labor Day weekend, and over the next month? Canada Geese are now through molting, and have entered the "staging period", the time of year when families join up with others. Their autumn migration can be seen from September to the beginning of November. The early migrants have a tendency to spend less time at rest stops and go through the migration a lot faster.

Now is our opportunity to get a sense of the goose population in NYC. Since 2008, the USDA has been quoting a number of "20,000 to 25,000" resident Canada geese in the NYC metropolitan area and using this figure as rationalization for ongoing and current goose massacres. This, despite the fact that thousands of NYC geese have been rounded up and killed by the USDA and the city of New York since 2008. We have good reason to suspect that the USDA claimed goose count to be highly inflated, however, we cannot prove that.

It is unclear exactly how USDA is coming up with the long quoted figure of 20,000 - 25,000 geese in New York City. At the very least, the number appears to be outdated. Geese will continue to be rounded up and slaughtered around New York City, but we can demonstrate that the actual number of geese in our urban parks is far lower than what is being reported.

It is necessary to form a reliable and committed task force for the purpose of counting, documenting, photographing (when possible) and reporting goose numbers (on a weekly basis) in all city parks and other city owned properties (such as golf courses) over the next 8 months. The importance of this Goosewatch cannot be understated as both the city and the USDA has claimed the "optimum" population of NYC Canada geese to be only 5,000.

What We and the Geese Need You To Do:

Visit your local park at least one day a week. Please count and if possible, photograph any geese that you see. Please report and send the information to:

If you do not see any geese, please report that, too (especially if location previously had geese). Please provide exact location, date and number of geese, if any, that are observed. Please also indicate your name and email contact information.

Please share this with others who also care about saving the wildlife in our parks and want to take some small measure to actively help.

Please read this blog by Patty Adjamine for additional information.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Update - "How are the geese?"

The Official USDA 2011 New York City Goose Removal Report will soon be released, and it can be expected that 700-800 geese were rounded up in NYC this summer.

While we wait this critical information, I want to provide an update on where we stand now that the NYC round ups, at least unofficially, seem to be behind us.

In Brooklyn, we started out simply as a quiet group making the effort to stake out Prospect Park. 368 geese were rounded up on July 8, 2010 and if the round ups were to occur again in 2011 we wanted to be present (not asleep in our beds) were another massacre to take place. Our plan was to document the event for the world to witness. Word got out about our efforts, and many people joined us - we had 100 people on speed dial waiting for our alert to come to the park to join in protest. We were covered favorably by many press outlets, who requested to be added to the speed dial list. And in the end, the Prospect Park geese were spared from gassing or slaughter.

Many believe GooseWatch was the deciding factor in why the USDA decided to skip over Prospect Park. After all, they admittedly do not want lots of people "looking around and gathering". On the other hand, Prospect Park had hired a border collie company to scare the geese away so as to reduce their numbers prior to the DEC headcount. We may never know decisively whether or not GooseWatch was the determining factor. Yet, undoubtedly Prospect Park was spared because of the powerful and passionate community that spoke up and made ourselves known all year long - from the initial days and weeks following the round up when a vigil was organized, to Hands Around the Lake, and finally, including the citywide effort which GooseWatch became.

The Facebook page For the Love of the Geese in Prospect Park has helped keep everyone in touch, even in far away places like Washington State, Wisconson and Virginia, where USDA goose round ups are also taking place. The battle that reached our shores in Brooklyn, NY, was in fact, the tip of the iceberg, goose round ups are happening across the country. However, we can be a powerful force pushing back. Our goal is that the efforts begun in a small community in Brooklyn will spread across New York City and ultimately, the country.

Yet, as mentioned, all evidence so far points to approximately 800 geese rounded up and killed from NYC this summer, brutally, and with no legitimate justification. Suzanne Soehner witnessed the USDA on the scene in Inwood Hill Park. Residents in Staten Island mourn the roundup and deaths of more than 200 beloved geese from their park. Despite our efforts, not a single photograph exists to document the 2011 NYC Canada goose round ups.

With the help of Friends of Animals, we brought our message to Mayor Bloomberg. We showed our unity and strength, but much work lies ahead if we are going to put an end to the policy and contract that promotes this needless death.

So, if like me anyone has been asked the question, "How are the geese?", perhaps you also have a decidedly mixed response. Many thanks to everyone for their support and participation in GooseWatch 2011. It seems our battle may just be beginning, but you can be sure our numbers will grow. In the meantime, I urge you to visit Canada Geese near you as much as possible, keep an eye on their numbers and health, and let your neighbors and elected representatives know that you care about them and are against the round ups. (In case you have not yet signed, here are our groups' petitions:,

Stay tuned for another update once we are blessed with the official death count from the USDA report.


Here is a synopsis of GooseWatch and the past and current struggle for the Canada Geese in NYC, as articulated by Patty Adjamine:

Where We've Been (Or, Background)
On July 8, 2010, the people of the Prospect Park area woke up to find the lake in their public park almost entirely devoid of waterfowl.

When questioned, "What happened to all the geese?" park officials initially claimed the birds "flew to Jamaica Wildlife Refuge." But, park goers in the know realized that molting geese and their babies could not fly. They immediately notified the NY Times and following investigation, the NY Times broke the story which later went national:

In the wee hours of that July morning, 368 geese and their baby goslings were rounded up by the USDA, trucked to Kennedy Airport and gassed. Entire families wiped out with deadly fumes as most New Yorkers quietly went to work on a Thursday morning with no inkling of what was secretly happening behind closed doors.

Clandestine goose roundups and killings have been occurring around NYC for the past 8 years. But, they accelerated greatly following the "Miracle on the Hudson" landing of flight 1549 on Jan 15, 2009 after colliding with two migratory geese from Labrador, Canada.

Although a few media outlets, including CNN reported that the US Airways Airbus had sustained "engine stall" on a previous flight and almost had to emergency land, this part of the story was ignored by most of the major media. Passengers report scare on earlier US Airways Flight 1549 - CNN

Usually, when planes hit birds, they simply return to the airport. That this one landed in a river should have raised questions and investigation by the press. But, that did not occur. It was apparently more convenient to blame geese than obvious mechanical deficiencies.

The flight 1549 incident thus served as the perfect excuse to launch an all out "war" on resident Canada geese in New York City's parks, despite the fact the misfortunate geese the airliner collided with were migrating birds from another region altogether. In 2009, more than 1,200 geese from NYC parks were rounded up and gassed by the USDA. In 2010, that number escalated to more than 1,600.

In most cases, community members are not aware of the goose slaughters -- or, if they dare to question the sudden disappearance of the birds, are usually told the geese "just flew away." But, the people of Brooklyn's Prospect Park were not satisfied with brush offs and obfuscation. Instead, they organized through a Facebook page.

For the love of the geese in Prospect Park (92)

In the week after the Prospect Park goose gassings, a vigil was held for the geese organized by Mary Beth Purdy Artz and Chio Flores. More than 100 people attended the solemn event and it was covered by several members of the press, including NBC and the NY Times. Two more rallies would be held for the geese in ensuing weeks, organized by Friends of Animals and In Defense of Animals.

But, ultimately, it requires far more than rallies alone or even the formation of a Facebook page to stop a carnage that has been in motion for almost a decade. It requires focus, commitment, tenacity and the courage to forge ahead even in the face of great odds.

Our first task was to know our issue before pressuring officials, politicians and agencies. That meant gathering information and facts, not just from New York, but all over the country. The Facebook page became a site to post and share hundreds of articles, documents and other information. A core group of activists remained committed to bringing about change and doing what was necessary to insure that another goose culling would not occur this year at Prospect Park

In response to the criticism and pressure, earlier this year, Prospect Park formed a special Wildlife Committee to address and implement non-lethal management of the geese. But, even the formation of a program to "harass" geese and oil eggs was not enough to guarantee that a repeat culling of the geese would not occur this year.

In March of this year, another event was held at Prospect Park. "Hands Around the Lake" was organized to honor the geese at Prospect Park and to plead for their right to live. The event attracted more than 100 participants, including politicians and animal protection organization spokespersons. But, even that was not enough to insure that the Prospect Park geese would be spared from another USDA roundup.

Thus, in May of this year, "Goosewatch" was formed, organized by David Karopkin. The goal of Goosewatch was to insure that IF another USDA roundup occurred, it would not go unnoticed and unrecorded. Volunteers signed on and agreed to monitor the park in the wee hours of the morning. In the event USDA showed up again, they would be photographed and videotaped. The residents of the Prospect Park community would not be "sleeping through another USDA roundup and killing." The organization of Goosewatch was reported on by several media outlets, including mention in the NY Times and on NBC.

It is perhaps not surprising under the circumstances, that when USDA prepared its goose "hit list" for this year, Prospect Park was not on it. USDA claims that the "low" number of geese at Prospect Park this year did not merit a cull. However, (as of this point) we know that USDA did hit at least one other park with fewer geese than Prospect Park. (Inwood Park.)

We have to thus conclude that due to the combined efforts of the dedicated activists of the Prospect Park (and other) areas, a small, but very significant victory was achieved in saving the approximately 30 geese at Prospect Park this year.

But, our goal is to similarly save the geese in the other five boroughs of New York City. This was but the first step in a journey of a thousand miles.....
Where We Are (The Present) and Where We Need to Go (The Immediate Future)

Currently, we are trying to determine exactly what happened to the 800 or so geese rounded up this year from the NYC Metropolitan Area (including Long Island) and sent to a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania slaughterhouse.

In the spring of this year, the DEP and USDA announced that NYC geese would be "processed" in Pennsylvania and sent to the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank. But, we are having difficulty confirming what appeared to be a public relations ploy on the part of governmental agencies in response to criticisms last year of NYC geese ultimately being dumped in landfills. Goose meat donated to the food bank apparently doesn't carry a label of source or origin. Moreover, the Central Pennsylvania Food Bank claims the meat is toxicity tested by the USDA. But, the USDA claims it is the state that has the responsibility for testing the slain geese for possible toxins. If and when we are able to determine what slaughtering plant the geese were actually sent to and who specifically "tested" them (and for what) it is anticipated that we will know the final disposition of the geese. But, for the moment, this is still very murky and unclear. It is an investigation in progress.

The importance of learning what really happened to NYC geese rounded up and killed this year cannot be understated. This is critical not only insofar as animal cruelty issues, but also possible food contamination issues. Wild geese travel to many different locations, are exposed to various toxins, including mercury and lead and eat grass that in public parks, is routinely sprayed with pesticides. Many chemical residues and possible PCB's can remain in the tissues of wild geese who do not come from a controlled environment. Is such "meat" thus safe to feed to people without proper, full and individual testing?

According to reliable sources, proper testing of geese for possible contaminants can cost up to $100.00 per bird. That would seem to rule resident park geese out as a "cost effective" food source for people. Moreover, according to bird experts, molting geese are usually "feverish" and somewhat "sickly" when they are going through the process of losing feathers and being flightless (the time, in early summer when most USDA goose roundups occur). Hunters who shoot geese and claim to "eat" them do not kill geese in the summer when the birds are going through the molt. Rounded up geese have been rejected in many states across the country as possible food "donations" for poor people. Recently, these include Washington state, Virginia and Alabama. So, why are molting geese rounded up from NYC parks "safe" to feed to people in another state?

Perhaps they are only "safe" if proper testing procedures are being short circuited? That seems to have occurred recently with ground turkey meat. Less than two weeks ago, 36 million pounds of ground turkey had to be recalled due to suspected salmonella contamination. One person died from salmonella and dozens became sick around the country.

Nevertheless, we don't know the answers to these questions pertaining to the ground "goose meat" yet. But, as noted they are a priority for us to investigate and get to the bottom of. That is because next year, plans are in the works to slaughter the geese in NYC and "donate" them to food banks here.

Another priority for us to work on over the next 12 months, is obtaining and keeping accurate counts of geese throughout the NYC metropolitan area. The USDA claim of "20,000 - 25,000 geese" in the NYC metro area has been the same for the past 4 years despite "culls" of thousands of geese in that period. We therefore have to question and consider that number to be highly inflated and suspect. Either the culls are having NO effect on the current Canada goose population. Or, the quoted number is incorrect and moreover is being used to justify further goose slaughters. It is critical for us to recruit and establish reliable people from all over the city and Long Island to report to us and keep ongoing tabs on goose numbers. This is especially important in all those areas that have previously been targeted for goose roundups and culls. If we cannot find reliable people to accurately report and keep records of goose numbers, then we have to organize people willing to drive to areas of prior goose culls and keep track of current and prevailing numbers.

We have to be prepared early next year to challenge the USDA on its repeated goose numbers quotes. Should the USDA numbers be accurate (and we sincerely doubt they are) then that seems to point to evidence that the goose killings are totally ineffective in "reducing" goose population. We can then point to places like Central Park, that for years, has been utilizing non-lethal methods like habitat modification and Border Collie chasing to successfully manage and keep goose populations in check.

On the other hand, if the USDA goose numbers are inaccurate and goose numbers are much lower than what is being quoted, then that would eliminate the "need" for further cullings. (We suspect this to actually be the case, but at this point, cannot prove.) The need to gather and determine accurate goose numbers across the city, (like the unsuitability of slain park geese as "meat for the poor") cannot be understated.

These two priorities alone are enough to keep us very busy and focused over the next twelve months. However, that is not to negate the importance of constant pressure on our legislative representatives and political leaders for changes in our "Wildlife Management Services" particularly as they pertain to Canada goose roundups in our city.

We need to pressure our Congressional representatives to cut funding for the "Wildlife Services" department of the USDA. USDA does not work for free. Most of the funding for the goose slaughters in New York City comes from Congressional "appropriations" -- or, in other words, our tax dollars at a time the government is in default for reckless spending and mounting dept in the trillions of dollars.

It is time to say, "enough is enough." No more tax money for reckless and insidiously cruel, unnecessary goose slaughters in New York City and elsewhere.


Sunday, July 17, 2011

GooseWatch 2011 Nears End

As the Canada Geese like these in Prospect Park start to test their flight feathers, as I understand, this will be the last week of round-ups in NYC parks. I was told there are still 3 parks on the list. We have a few parks where we suspect these round-ups may occur, and we are going to be there in case this is the case, but there is no guarantee our efforts will lead to documenting or preventing a round-up. We also know now that USDA agents are accompanied by Parks Department PEP officers, so that anyone "interfering" with a round-up can be quickly arrested. We will do what we can to protect NYC geese, but it seems our window of opportunity is nearly closed.

This was always the goal of GooseWatch: to document, and if possible, prevent a round-up, which are done in secret.

A simple goal that required a lot of coordination:

Step 1 - Put together GooseWatch team
Step 2 - Organize a Schedule
Step 3 - Create a Mass Alert System (like
Step 4 - Pack supplies: video / digital camera, cell phone, noise makers
Step 5 - Wait for USDA

...but it was worth it. I couldn't sleep knowing that the Prospect Park geese might be rounded up in the early hours of one hot summer morning, and no one would be there to see it happen. I am so grateful that the community rallied around the idea of a stake-out, and that we were able to protect the Prospect Park geese.

I am also proud that we have created a model which might be implemented in other areas where geese are under threat.

Our work is not nearly done, but so far I am incredibly impressed with and proud of the success of GooseWatch, both in terms of protecting the Prospect Park geese, 35 of whom remain at peace, and attracting public and media attention to the brutally inhumane round-ups, which are potentially extremely dangerous to public safety, and in violation of the democratic process, unilaterally denying rights of animals to live, and people like myself to appriciate such life.

Once the round-ups are behind us in NYC, you'll still find me in Prospect Park, and when possible I will continue to visit parks around the city where we have found geese (and other animals) living in peace, but my focus will shift towards the legal and political battle ahead of us to fight and stop the attack on Canada geese, and all wildlife.

Friday, July 8, 2011

2011 Round-ups Underway

Not a very celebratory Fourth of July for Canada Geese in NYC.

Americans celebrated our independence and freedom this past weekend, while as expected, the USDA began Canada goose round-ups in NYC. Specifically we know the USDA rolled through Inwood Hill Park on Tuesday, June 28, 2011 (at around 9:30 am) for 20-30 geese and goslings. Later in the week they hit Marine Park Golf Course and other parks in Staten Island.

Unfortunately there were no eyewitnesses with cameras present at these round-ups, so there we have no way to prove or show exactly how brutal the operation was. We are left to best guesses and educated speculation (and naturally we can only assume the worst).
Images sent to me by Jim Pfeil, Delafield, WI – June 20, 2011

The goal of “GooseWatch” is simple: to be at a round-up site and document the USDA operations which they prefer to remain clandestine, and for most people not to know much about. In the instances we have been able see images of round-ups being conducted across the country, we know these are cases of extreme animal cruelty.

The government intends to conduct their operations without any oversight or public witnesses. We need help, and not only from neighbors of Prospect Park, but all across NYC.

“Hands Around the Lake” – March 26, 2011

Since the 2010 massacre, neighbors of Prospect Park have united to do what we could to understand what factors led to the decision to come to our park last year, and what we could do to prevent a repeat occurrence.

These yearlong efforts also attempted to keep the population of Prospect Park geese “under control.''

Last week, on the day we rallied, pamphleted, and gathered signatures outside the gates of City Hall, a last minute announcement from the DEP cleared our park from the round-ups, but announced that 800 others would be rounded up.

Operation “GooseWatch” seems to have been successful, at least in part, to deterring the USDA from coming back to Prospect Park to conduct round ups in 2011. But our community remains concerned about the other 800 geese across the city.

Over the past year, we have learned a great deal about the facts surrounding goose removal program in New York City, and beyond. I believe we could fill a book (and a film - link) to cover the history of geese and human relations in North America, and the lies (or distortions of truth) we have been told by the government and media - about the “War on Geese.” Also unfortunately, the public is ill informed about even who and what geese are. We have come to understand the battle we are fighting and (some of) the forces we are up against. As previously said, they made a mistake coming to Prospect Park last year, they awoke a sleeping giant. We are now determined to protect geese anywhere we can, any way we can.

While the passionate and determined local community continues to keep our eyes on Prospect Park, we are hoping people all across NYC go to their local parks, photograph the geese, get to know them – and your neighbors, and do what you can to make sure someone is there when the USDA rolls through with their trucks, kayaks, crates and cages.

We know the goose round ups are cruel and unusual; we have seen it in other places. Only footage of these round-ups can provide us the ammunition we need to convince our fellow New Yorkers that it is WRONG for the government to unilaterally decide that there are “too many” geese, for any reason that can be most easily justified (in this case the false pretense of “air safety”), and hire the USDA to carry out their brutal round-ups on our publicly shared (and sometimes private) land.

Please, if there are geese living in a park near you, and the park falls within the ambiguously determined 7 mile zero tolerance radius (or even if not), please visit as often as possible between 6am and 12pm, when round ups are expected to take place, and please make sure to bring a camera.

Please email, people from all across NYC are getting in touch with us, and we would like to be able to match people who live near one another to combine efforts and increase intercommunication.

My comment / response to the article this week, “Goosewatch is (Still) On Duty”:

I live about a mile from Prospect Park and for a few years I have been biking around the park before work, usually from about 7:30 – 8:30am. So for me, what is described by Ms. Brown is not a major lifestyle change. It’s actually very enjoyable. Instead of racing around to get a few miles in before work, I take an extra hour or two and actually enjoy the park which is teeming with life. Knowing there are always 5-10 other neighbors who are doing the same, and on-call ready to fill in, makes it easy and comfortable. (Personally, I was always kind of impressed with birdwatchers, now I definitely have a new hobby which I am learning lots about. Birds are very graceful and interesting creatures, with complex lives it seems, and I feel blessed to be able to come to Prospect Park, admire them, and enjoy their company.)

The members of “GooseWatch”, are deeply concerned about a number of issues, including but not limited to: the general condition, health and cleanliness of Prospect Park, the welfare of wildlife in all NYC parks, and the air travel safety of all people, including NYC residents, and the millions of individuals that cross our city’s borders every year. These are issues that can only be addressed in a meaningful way by our government – and we are failing / have been failed on all three counts. Perhaps the community has let these problems get out of hand to the point where drastic action was needed on our part. Prospect Park (along with several others in NYC) is a designated wildlife refuge. It should be the job of our civic leadership to protect our parks, and the wildlife living there. Yet, it seems that in the absense of such actions, the responsibility gets picked up by the community. We need our local and federal government agencies to take a proactive stance on this responsibility, not to do the opposite, and allow our parks to become garbage dumps and killing fields. Since the 2010 massacre, neighbors of Prospect Park have been united by our love for geese, wildlife, and LIFE in general, and we are appalled that our taxes and our public park space was taken and used to sponsor brutal and baseless death.

In the time since, we have engaged in research and correspondence with others who have been involved on both sides of the issue for many years. Many of our questions were answered by misdirection, and we have taken a long road to get to where we are today.

While we have much to learn, we have come a long way in understanding the problems at hand, and we would like to share the wealth of information we have accumulated with our neighbors across NYC and beyond, and help them put efforts such as “GooseWatch” in place in their neighborhood parks.


Many members of “GooseWatch” surpass my knowledge and expertise on the subject, but a few key points should be made to address the concerns to my neighbors in NYC, who are not in favor of the goose round ups but, (as I do) fear a repeat of the “Miracle on the Hudson”:

It seem clear that there are serious risks to passenger safety at JFK and La Guardia, but also that these threats do not stem from geese or other birds – which the FAA states account for .068% of fatal accidents out of a million flights, and listed under “other”, far below a host of other possibly preventable causes.

The geese that were struck by Sully’s plane were not NYC Canada geese - they were high-flying long-range migratory birds, and were completely distinct from NYC’s populations. …which is not to say efforts should not be taken to prevent another accident, such as the radar systems which other countries have employed to map bird migration paths, and other techniques which can decrease risk. Even Sully himself acknowledged that our sever underfunding of pilots, air traffic controllers, and airplane maintenance, are the biggest impediments to a safe sky.

Meanwhile, no goose has ever brought down a commercial airline anywhere – EVER. And so, without any science to justify their position, or real understanding or acknowledgment of the problems that led to the “Miracle on the Hudson”, such as faulty aircraft, our city government’s response was to bring a violent war against urban wildlife to NYC.

Actually, it seems to me that by removing all the geese from our parks, we may be creating a very dangerous situation which invites more geese from other areas where they are under attack to try to make a home in NYC, and their arrivals will only INCREASE the risk of another accident taking place. In light of the recent NY Times piece about a huge garbage dump attracting all kinds of birds sitting less than a mile from La Guardia airport, it almost seems that we are asking for another accident, and may have created a worse a problem than there ever was.

I really find it hard to believe the decision to kill geese in NYC was borne out of a concern for airline safety, there just is no scientific logic for this, and it simply seems to be a crowd-pleasing rationale that decision-makers are happy to employ. Geese are not being killed only in NYC, but around the country, and it is not only because of airline safety, but for a litany of reasons. Other offenses we have seen used to justify a round up include toxic and uncontrollable poop, and having a long life span.

We understand this is a world of pressing, heartbreaking and important social issues, and we live in time when many people are in great need. However, that understanding does not minimize our local cause. I personally could not feel comfortable with myself just sitting around letting these seriously innocent geese living less than a mile from my home be crated off due to their inconvenience to some people’s productivity and/or irrational fears.

This blog sums up what I am trying to say:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Small but Important Victory

The Prospect Park Geese are Saved!

The news reports tell the story of GooseWatch's success pretty well:

"Between 700 and 800 Canada geese are expected to be rounded up from parks in and around New York City and killed in the next several weeks, the city Departament of Environmental Protection said Thursday afternoon.The city will not say which parks, however, or when.But Prospect Park, currently home to about two dozen geese and a round-the-clock “goose watch” patrol aimed at thwarting a repeat of last year’s extermination, is not one of them.

“One of the U.S.D.A.’s priorities is to reduce the stress on the animals and make the operation as stress-free as possible,” said Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the city environmental protection department. “And so the locations are not given out in advance.”Referring to threats from animal-rights advocates to interfere with the roundup, Mr. Sklerov said the authorities “don’t want lots of people looking around or gathering.

"Friends of Animals announced last week that the organizers of the Prospect Park goose watch had “amassed a list of nearly 100 supporters who are on call to receive a mass text message and phone call at any hour of the night if the U.S.D.A. is spotted by stakeout patrollers and who are able to come to the park immediately to defend the geese.

"The goose watch, the group noted, is “committed to protecting the geese of Prospect Park, New York City and beyond.” Edita Birnkrant, New York director of Friends of Animals, said that at Prospect Park, the goose watch had been prepared to storm the scene of a roundup with whistles and other noisemakers to disperse the geese so that they could not be captured."

"The announcement comes on the eve of a promised “goose watch” vigil to prevent another extermination this summer. Federal officials typically slaughter geese in mid- to late June after the birds molt and cannot fly away from workers who corral them into pens before gassing them with fatal doses of carbon monoxide."

"Anticipating that the USDA might come back this year for the park’s remaining 26 geese before the expiration of the city’s kill contract with the agency on June 30, one group of geese enthusiasts even started a late-night “Goose Watch” to keep an eye on the geese in the park’s off house."

"A group of people at Prospect Park, where about 400 geese were legendarily killed last summer, have actually set up a round-the-clock "goose watch" patrol aimed at thwarting a repeat of last year’s extermination."

"David Karopkin, who organized the GooseWatch vigils, said he was relieved to hear that Prospect Park's geese were safe. "It brings me great joy to know that those geese will be safe," said the 26-year-old Ditmas Park resident.

"But the battle, he said, wasn't over and plans were already under way to do similar night watches at some of the Queens locations. "Now we can focus our attention elsewhere" he said. "We're not going to just sit back while 800 geese get rounded up for no reason."


I can't help but wonder if the protest organized by Cathryn Swan and Johanna Clearfield had something to with the timing of the announcement.

Outside City Hall, June 23, 2011

The press following the event was favorable:

We have another protest/rally for 6pm - 8pm this Thursday, June 30, outside Mayor Bloomberg's mansion on 79th Street between 5th and Madison Avenues. This is the day the citys contract is due to expire with the USDA, a renewal would be a theft of taxpayer dollars.

If it's true that they are not coming back to Prospect Park this summer, this is definately ground breaking, and also a huge relief. This is great news for 26 geese, including a young gosling. But I ache for the other 800 that will be rounded up mercilessly, and for no legitimate reason whatsoever.

It's possible that we really did reach an "acceptable" number in Prospect Park, and the USDA has already tried to take credit a successful 2010 massacre, those who supported harrasment measures might defend these as being a critical factor, but the bottom line is that GooseWatch was acknowledged as being a deterrant to coming to Prospect Park, as we suspected it might be. The government doesn't want concerned citizens standing around watching as they carry out such brutality (and criminality).

There is no doubt in my mind no doubt in my mind the decision not to come back to Prospect Park could not and would not have happened without the collective efforts of everyone involved in protecting the geese. I'm very proud of the role GooseWatch played, and so grateful for everyone that contributed to the effort. I am so grateful for all the members in our group and all of the roles that everyone played. There is no way any of us can do this alone. A community and collaborative effort is what is needed, and that is exactly what we are doing.

We still have so much work ahead of us if we are going to stop the senseless goose round-ups, across NYC and elsewhere, but I think we showed what a group of local concerned citizens can accomplish. I'm very proud to be working with a group very passionate, intellegent, brave, diverse and capable activists. It's inspiring.

The Goosewatch idea was just something I thought might be within our reach, but I didn't even know whether it was possible, and I knew I couldn't do it alone. At first I wasn't sure press attention would be a good idea all, we had to give away many details of our actions, and considering the resources of the city and federal governments, I figured they'd find a way around us. Yet out of the media attention, people have been reaching out to us from within and outside the Prospect Park community to join the effort, and at least to some extent we scared the death squad away.

Even if Prospect Park is safe (despite the city announcement that Prospect Park will be spared, we can't take such for granted to be absolute). Meanwhile, there are two dozen other sites on the list where geese will probably be taken from. We can't save all the geese, but we will be vigilant in trying to document a NYC round up at some of these sites, where we know there are vulnerable geese families. And we certainly aren't taking our eyes off Prospect Park, we will still be there every morning to make sure the geese are well looked after.

I really love the part where the guy says they “'don’t want lots of people looking around or gathering,' because it's stressful on the birds, because you know, they are going so far out of their way to make sure the round ups and slaughters are as gentle as possible." Check out my post on my trip to Randall's Island, and please let me know if you buy this: “'One of the U.S.D.A.’s priorities is to reduce the stress on the animals and make the operation as stress-free as possible,' said Farrell Sklerov, a spokesman for the city environmental protection department." We know that the 2011 round ups will be heartless and brutal, and it's unnerving.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

GooseWatch Update

This is it... the home stretch. Supposedly the USDA Wildlife Services has begun or will imminently begin rounding up geese around New York City parks this week. They won't confirm or deny.

22 Canada Geese in Prospect Park as of this morning.

Meanwhile, GooseWatch is in full effect. We are holding down the fort at Prospect Park. We have been and will be out there every night for as long as we need to be. We're a little sleep deprived. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in the effort.

GooseWatch's goal is simply to be awake and present and if nothing else bear witness to what is going to be done under the cover of darkness when the park is closed to the public, while we were asleep a year ago. We are still looking for people who can assist and want to be involved.

People have expressed concerns, but I assure that the plans for our activities are going to be conducted legally. It's possible we will not be able to save the geese, but we will try. One need not be concerned about getting arrested unless that person desires to break the law, which will not be necessary for most participants. Perhaps some may choose to break the law in some way, hopefully if it means being able to save the geese, a) I would morally support such actions if no person was hurt and geese were saved as a result, b) I don't see how I could stop them.

Please let me know if you are interested in participating and would like more details about the stake out, or you can help out in a lot of other ways:

-- Join the Stake Out Team. We have formed a group to stake out the park through the night. The USDA is likely to come during the next 10 days, through June 30, sometime between 12am and 6am. We'll be there every night, but we need more people. We especially need people who can come after 4am. Requires standing outside the park and keep watch of the lake & geese using binoculars. It's fun, but tiring (especially if like many of us you have a day job). Please let me know if you would like more info.

-- Come to the park for a midnight protest when the USDA arrives. When the USDA comes we have 100 people on speed dial that want to be called. Most live within 10 minutes from the park. When we spot the USDA, we will send out a message by phone and email with instructions for where everyone should meet. It will not be a test. Please send your phone number if you want to be called.

The contact email is

Here are some other ways you can help:

-- SIGN THIS PETITION. Let Mayor Bloomberg know you are against needless goose slaughter.

-- Print the flier below and help put them up around the neighborhood shops.

-- PROTEST/FLYER TO SAVE OUR CANADA GEESE - THURSDAY, JUNE 23RD 12:30-2:30 P.M. OUTSIDE CITY HALL. Come Flyer/Protest with us to SAVE CANADA GEESE Bring signs, pictures. We will provide flyers. LOCATION: Broadway at Murray Street (Across from 250 Broadway at Entrance to City Hall) -- Contact NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg and make clear your opposition to the slaughter of the geese and their babies in Prospect Park and the rest of New York City.

-- Call 311 and lodge a "Complaint" with the mayor's office. Tell the operator you want to “leave a comment for the Mayor”; then ask Mayor Bloomberg to implement polices that respect, tolerate, and promote peaceful co-existence with our urban wildlife, and to END the goose-killing contact with the USDA. Do identify yourself as a New York City resident. Your comments will be recorded compiled and sent to the Mayor.

-- In addition to calling 311 to register a comment to Mayor Bloomberg asking him to cancel the slaughter contact for NYC's Canada Geese for this year and forever, you can also call 212.788.3000. This is the direct number for the Mayor's Office at City Hall. Make sure the person answering the phone takes down your name and where you live. Be clear and polite in communicating your outrage over this wildlife slaughter and be sure to state your wish for an END to these kind of kill contracts with the USDA. Those calling from outside New York City, dial 212-NEW-YORK and follow the same directions above.

-- New York City Residents can also call their NYC Council Member representative and urge them to press the Mayor to protect the Canada geese and all our urban wildlife. All citizens can contact their elected representatives at every level, and let them know you care what happens to the geese.

-- Request to join the Facebook group "For the love of the geese in Prospect Park"

-- Visit a park near you where there are geese, and see how they are doing. There might be cute goslings there this time of year.

A brief word about the need for this effort. The USDA is looking for 1,000 birds to kill in NYC this summer, and use the meat to feed the needy. Please visit the website Prospect Park Quiet Skies, read FAQ #15. Also, the USDA report of 2010 round ups show that many sites with less than 20 geese were hit by the USDA killers. Some of these sites were completely cleared out. We hope not, but sincerely do not rule out the likelihood that USDA is coming back to PP.

It still makes absolutely no sense to me why the contract with the USDA is being carried out. There are sound arguments to be presented against every single claims I have heard for why we need to kill geese. The burden of proof seems to rest on the advocates of geese to show that there are better solutions, rather than on the government to demonstrate that there are no other solutions. This may be a point of bitter contention, but in light of the many alternative options to slaughter, I do not see how this burden has been met by the government or public.

The Prospect Park Goose Advocates have been trying for a year to find out what determines an "acceptable" number of geese. Is 30 too many? If so, I really find it hard to believe that 1 isn't too many. I think if they come for the geese in Prospect Park and other locations outside the 7 mile radius, it will demonstrate that this has little to do with air safety or human health and is about meeting a quota. There are 20 or so geese at the park now. Let them live. It's their park too.

(Photo credit Theresa Galvin - June 12, 2011)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Trip to Randall's Island

I went to Randall's Island early this past Saturday to meet up with Robert Guadagna of Geesebusters (Not GooseBusters). Robert got in touch with us when we heard we were organizing a stake out.

Robert owns a patent on an eagle-shaped kite that once in the air instantly scares off geese and other birds of prey. To take it one step further, he conditions the birds using a whistle to correlate the blowing of a whistle to the flying of the eagle. After some training, you can scare off the birds using only the whistle. Compared to any of the other methods I've ever seen to remove unwanted geese from an area, this by far seems to be the most humane. It is also by far the cheapest.

Robert tested his kite in front of me, there weren't any geese around just at that moment, but as soon as the kite went up, a dozen or two smaller birds immediately took off. He showed me how to use the whistle, which is just a regular gym locker whistle except he takes the ball out. He explained that you can tell if you've had repeat geese in your area if you condition each group with a different whistle sound or pitch. And then we saw a family of geese swim down the river, 4 adults and two gosling (which we didn't scare away).

Some will not appreciate the negative rhetoric about geese on the Geesebusters website, but keep in mind the potential customers are private golf courses, cemeteries and schools, and using kites would prevent much worse harassment. I've heard the kites are being used with success in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn. I think it would be great if this method could be applied, or at least tried, on a wide scale basis by people who don't want geese on their private land. This is a solution for anyone that complains about goose poop. No more addling eggs, and no more menacing dogs.

I'm not saying I agree with the idea of harassing geese, I don't, but I know people who would probably literally fire a shotgun at a goose because of where they poop. I'd rather the geese live where they want to be, but when the choices are bad and worse, it's not a tough decision for me.

The kites could also be flown at the airports instead of the previously employed hawks, and would be much more effective and cheaper. But Robert said it was years ago when the USDA actually bought the kites, but for some reason won't use it or even try it.

One more thing about Robert... he was on Randall's Island when the USDA arrived on June 17, 2009. They cornered the geese in fenced-in areas, twist tied the geese feet, crated the geese... and then stepped out to a meeting or breakfast. According to Robert, for almost an hour, the geese were left unattended in their crates on the back of trucks while the agents were inside one of the nearby buildings.

All of the photos and videos are courtesy of Robert Guadagna. I think people need to see these powerful images, which was the original impetus of organizing the stake out. Almost no one ever visits Randall's Island, so the USDA felt free enough to come in daylight, meanwhile they come to places like Prospect Park at 3am.

Even if Prospect Park is off the kill map for 2011, and I'm not convinced it is, there are a lot more sites that are being looked at by the DEC. Robert showed me his list of 2010's, with the sites where the USDA removed geese highlighted.