Summertime is almost here, which, for New York City’s goose population, means it’s molting season. Ordinarily, it’s a time for the birds to shed their wing and tail feathers and grow new ones in preparation for migration. But since 2009, when a gaggle of migratory geese led to the “Miracle on the Hudson” emergency plane landing, it’s been the season when U.S. Department of Agriculture Agents scour New York’s Parks for the temporarily flightless geese, round them up, and slaughter them.
The geese that caused the 2009 crash weren’t local to New York, and several biologists and aviation experts–like Ron Merritt, former Chief of the Air Force’s Bird Aircraft Strike Hazard Team–believe goose slaughter is ineffectual in preventing aircraft strikes, yet the practice continues. Last year, at least 750 geese were killed. One group, however, hopes to defend the birds’ lives. Calling themselves GooseWatch NYC, the volunteers will patrol parks where goose roundups have occurred and watch over the animals.
“Last summer we watched almost 200 geese every day throughout the molt,” GooseWatch founder David Karopkin told ANIMAL. “At the very least, we know they were not rounded up by the USDA during the time we were there.”
GooseWatch began in May of last year, and thus far, neither Karopkin nor any of his volunteers have encountered a roundup in progress while on patrol. Karopkin notifies the USDA when and where patrols will happen, with the hope that it may stop agents from coming out. Officially, volunteers are not instructed to actually intervene–cell phone photos and recordings are encouraged–but off the books, it’s a different story.
“We are prepared for an encounter with USDA agents,” says Kropkin. “Some activists have told me they would be willing to get arrested. I couldn’t in good conscience suggest to anyone to do this, but I also wouldn’t try to stop anyone.”
“At the very least, the public has the right to some transparency,” he adds, “and the right to see what it looks like when taxpayer dollars go to pay federal agents to round up and slaughter geese in public parks in New York City.”
(Photo: GooseWatch NYC/Facebook)