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.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Prospect Park's "GooseWatch"

Almost a year ago, news broke that over 300 resident geese making their homes in Prospect Park were rounded up, crated and gassed. I was appalled and heartbroken.

I grew up and still live in the park’s shadow in the Ditmas Park area. As a kid I spent a lot of time at the park, and I have thousands of memories from being there so often. I loved to explore the back paths on my bike, and despite being robbed more than once, Prospect Park has always been a second home to me. I still spend time in the park on my bike, at concerts and other events, and over the past year, observing the geese and recently newborn goslings. It’s true that over the years the park has become a safer place – for humans. But for a year now, the stain of the goose massacre is often what I think of when I visit.

Until June 30, the USDA might still be coming back for most of the rest if not all remaining geese - about 15 at last count, including 3 newborn gosling out of the 6 that hatched - killing these geese would be an atrocity. I’ve heard a lot of arguments for reducing the goose population. Some people say they are disgusting, overpopulated species, polluting the ground with feces, and destroying the habitats of other birds and plants. Others are concerned about flight safety - in the wake of US Airways Flight 1549, geese became a public target when our mayor declared open season saying, “People are not going to stop flying and we have to make a decision. It’s geese or human beings.”

I’ve spent a lot of time researching these claims, and although I admittedly am not an expert, the science behind these views doesn't stand up to common sense logic. If the government and public decides there is a need to reduce the goose population, it should be done in the most humane way possible (several animal organizations have already suggested effective methods for deterring geese). There should be a public forum for this decision making process. The bottom line is that rounding up and gassing these geese is egregiously inhumane, there are better ways to address the concerns relating to air safety or human health.

Since the July 8, 2010 rounding and gassing of over 300 geese at Prospect Park, it has become public knowledge that a contract is in place between the City of New York and the USDA to remove geese from public parks across the city, at a taxpayer cost of $100,000 per year. I urge the mayor not to renew this contract which expires on June 30, 2011, and not to take out another contract in its place. The massacre of Prospect Park geese that took place last summer was wrong, and we don't want to see it happen again, but if it does, it shouldn't be done in secret.

We have a group of really knowledgeable and passionate New Yorkers (mostly Brooklynites), and we are dedicated to protecting the Prospect Park geese, because this is their home too. We will be launching a multi-faceted effort - including protesting and petitioning the mayor, and monitoring the park - to bring attention to their impending doom, and ultimately to try to stop any future slaughter.

If you are interested in joining the stake-out team, or would like to request more information, please email, and please visit and join the Facebook group "For the love of the geese in Prospect Park"