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Mamaroneck Geese on Death Row

The Village of Mamaroneck plans to execute geese for a crime some say that are not guilty of.

 

The mournful squawks of Mamaroneck Village’s population of Canadian Geese may be silenced this summer if officials go through with a plan to cull the large numbers of birds that have declared residency in Harbor Island and Columbus Park.

The village contracted with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in February of 2012 to gather up an unknown number of geese during molting season—the period from mid-June to late July where geese shed and re-grow their outer feathers—to be taken away and killed. The USDA is one the three federal agencies—including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC)—that share responsibility for the geese in New York, according to the DEC website.

“In terms of the inter-governmental agreement between the village and the USDA, it is a minor contract (maximum amount is estimated at about $8,700) that did not require Board approval, but which was supported in concept by a majority (at least four members) of the past Board,” said Village Manager Richard Slingerland, continuing, “I am not sure about the positions of the current elected officials on this matter, but I have not been asked to stop this effort.”

Prior to the goose slaughter, the USDA will also be oiling eggs in order to prevent them from hatching; Wildlife Services [a division of USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] will then determine whether or not to proceed based on the numbers of geese that remain.

If they are given the green light to go ahead, said USDA Spokesperson Tanya Espinosa,”Geese are placed alive in commercial turkey crates, and are taken to a poultry processor, where they are humanely euthanized and processed for human consumption following the guidelines set by New York State Agriculture and Markets, NYSDEC Bureau of Wildlife, and New York State Health Department.”

Espinosa said the meat will be donated to a NY-based food or charity organization that requests it.

Although there are no regulations prohibiting consumption of Canadian Geese, said Peter Constantakes of the New York State Department of Health, state fishing and waterfowl advisories recommends consuming no more than two geese per month.

"We have done studies that show that there should not be health risks associated with consumption-but advisories are basic recommendations," said Constantakes.

Though the problems inherent to a large goose population have plagued the village for three decades—which include large amounts of fecal buildup in Harbor Island and Columbus Park as well as overgrazing in lawns—said Mayor Norm Rosenblum, more humane efforts to control the numbers have been unsuccessful.

“My mandate is to address the health, safety and welfare of Mamaroneck Village…it has gotten to a point where it is an environmental and health issue—it becomes dangerous,” said Rosenblum, referring to the concerns that fecal matter may be contaminating local waterways and areas where children play in the park. 

Rosenblum said that officers on patrol in the area often have to bring an extra pair of shoes to avoid tracking the goose waste into their homes and cars.

But it’s uncertain what, if any, risk the geese pose to humans other than an annoyance. 

In 2011, the village received an EPA violation due to the presence of large amounts of fecal coliform bacteria in local waters. Although there was speculation that the bacteria levels could be related to an aging sewer system or, perhaps, from goose and dog waste, Elias Rodriguez, an EPA spokesperson, said that no source has yet been identified, and that studies are continuing.

In years past, village officials have attempted to deter geese by shooting off whistling rockets; planting tall grasses and natural areas in Harbor Island and Columbus Parks; and even hiring a group that rounded up geese and relocated them to North Carolina, only to have them return shortly thereafter.

Recently, the village invited local dog owners to participate in a goose chasing program at Harbor Island, said Slingerland. The village has also purchased a "goose poop vacuum" that they plan to utilize in the late spring and summer and before major events such as Fourth of July fireworks. 

“Our efforts address a major growth in the Canadian Goose population in New York State in general, and Westchester in particular. Population growth is due in large part to the fact that there are great food sources and very limited numbers of natural predators to Canadian Geese in our area,” said Slingerland, adding that the USDA estimates that the goose population in NY State is approximately 250,000, three times what is considered normal.

Although wolves, foxes and coyotes typically feed on geese, they are in short supply in Mamaroneck. And, though crows, raccoons, hawks and owls are known to eat goslings, they are less likely to approach areas with large numbers of birds, said Slingerland.

Some local residents object have not taken kindly to the idea of a goose slaughter though.

“The geese will return, this is not even a temporary measure and is disgusting and inhumane.  These are animals that mate for life and are social creatures.  They have been part of our village landscape forever,” said Mamaroneck resident Gina von Eiff in an email to village officials.

Kiley Blackman, the founder of Westchester4Geese, has called for a meeting with Mamaroneck officials to reconsider the slaughter. If all goes as planned, she said, the killings should be televised on local cable networks.

“The geese are being scapegoated for an extremely faulty sewage system that has gotten Mamaroneck fined by the EPA for human fecal matter in the water, and it should have been corrected years ago. Residents report finding condoms and worse in the Sound-and it is extremely unlikely they were put there by the geese,” she said in a press release.

Rosenblum acknowledges that the goose slaughter is an emotional issue for many, but that it’s a problem that has gone on too long.

Responding to the criticism of others, he said, “Let them put the herd out to feed in their own backyard.”

For more information on regulations for Canadian Geese, visit the DEC website here. 

Editor's Note: Several sentences regarding the safety of consuming goose meat were added to an original version of this article.

Patty A February 27, 2013 at 09:46 PM
@ Steve Kanney: I did not call the killing of any animal a "witch hunt." I specifically equated the targeting and killing of geese with 17th century witch hunts. Why? Because, like the geese, people were then accused of things not true, put on trials without evidence and killed because of unfounded and irrational community fear. True, the methods of killing were not the same, but the justifications for them, very similar: "Its either them or us."
T Hall February 27, 2013 at 09:55 PM
And how do you think the chicken,beef,pork and fish you put on your dinner table gets there. Don't be so hypocritical. Our kids play on he's fields. Get rid of them. It's disgusting.
steve kanney February 27, 2013 at 09:56 PM
patty a - there lies your problem. if it really is them or us, it SHOULD be them. would you let your house collapse to feed termites? if your answer to this question is no, i think you really need to clarify it. your words below "Animals actually do have voice. We just don't want to understand their language. After all, what would they say about us, their relentless tormenters?" kind of point to them as equal to humans. most people will not follow you there...
Patty A February 27, 2013 at 10:07 PM
@ T Hall: Never presume to know what is on the dinner tables of others. If we look at human biology, our teeth, intestines and other organ systems equte us more to herbivores than carnivores. Perhaps this helps explain the high incidences of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity that so afflicts our normally "meat eating" culture.
Patty A February 27, 2013 at 10:18 PM
@ Steve Kanney: Please explain how some geese in a park are eating someone's house to the point of collaspe. Humans have right to protect themselves, their homes and their families from any real threat, whether animal or human. However, killing just because we don't like something or someone is not legal towards humans and should also not occur against animals. I realize a "case" is currently being waged against the geese, claiming they are some kind of "health threat." But, does this make sense? Waterfowl toxic to water? Are fish toxic to oceans or bison toxic to grass? We should not assume that because someone has a cat, she is a witch. Nor should we assume that because a goose (or duck or squirrel) poops on the grass, we are all going to die.
Patty A February 27, 2013 at 10:40 PM
Things to consider: All the hunting and "culling" of Canada geese appears to be creating a much smarter, more adaptable and resilient bird similar to coyotes in mammals. Some animals (like coyotes) compensate for predation by producing larger litters, more often and at ealier ages. This also appears true of humans as witness a "baby boom" following the carnage of WW2 or the fact birth rates are higher in countries impoverished by war and famines where most babies die young. We can keep killing geese (like coyotes) but it only seems to create a much smarter, determined and prolific bird. If we really are so "repulsed" by geese, then change the habitat to something geese would not welcome. --- Such as landscape barriers to obstruct their views of possible predators. But, killing will only create more and smarter geese -- unless we design to wipe out the species all together which was almost done in the last century before the geese "wised up" to human predation.
Meg February 28, 2013 at 12:20 AM
Just do this...................http://www.goose-masters.com/links.asp Much more humane.
Meg February 28, 2013 at 12:21 AM
opps!! try again. http://www.goose-masters.com/links.asp
Stefani Kim February 28, 2013 at 12:29 AM
Hi Doreen, No, the EPA spokesperson I contacted said the cause of the high fecal counts is still unknown. They are continuing to study the problem but, so far, have not identified one specific cause. Best, Stefani
Lucia February 28, 2013 at 12:32 AM
THALL, 1. Sometimes more dogs poops than geese poops on the Sound area. 2. Poor farm animals which you mentioned are suffering very bad for nothing. Do you know that deceases like stroke, arthritis, diabetes and cancer are coming from the eating of meat ? Have you watched movie "Forkes over Knifes" ? 3. Geese are very intelligent birds. Little baby goslings are so adorable.
Lucia February 28, 2013 at 03:17 AM
The killing of geese is a barbaric medieval action!
Kim February 28, 2013 at 03:58 AM
BG7, Far from "excessive sentimentalism," geese advocates are proposing rational, effective ways to coexist with suburban wildlife that work for the long haul, which is an excellent basis for any public policy.
T Hall February 28, 2013 at 05:32 AM
So never in your life have you had fish, chicken , meat ?
T Hall February 28, 2013 at 05:36 AM
So you have never eaten a farm raised animal like a cute baby cow (veal) in your life?
Patty A February 28, 2013 at 09:01 AM
@ Stefani Kim: Did you ask how they can propose a massacre of the geese without knowing the cause of the so-called "health threat?" Again, it is hard to understand that nature would create waterfowl that poisons water. That does not make any sense. On the other hand, sewer runoff and garbage such as plastic bags, bottles and discarded fishing lines DO degrade the environment and are not biodegradable. Plastics and metals stay in the water for hundreds of years.
Patty A February 28, 2013 at 09:19 AM
@ Steve Kanney: I never said animals were "equal" to humans. Indeed, they are not equal to each other. Should we ever consider that animals have rights and deserve consideration (as we should) then an ameba would not warrent the same rights as a chimpanzee. There are degrees of awareness, sentience, evolvement and intelligence. Moreover, different animals serve different purposes in the web of life that need to be considered. Yes, it is complicated, but we need to begin somewhere. We need to evolve. But, certainly going into a peaceful park and rounding up wildife for slaughter is going in the wrong direction. Geese are highly aware, social and intelligent animals and they play an important role in nature and to other animals, especially waterfowl.
steve kanney February 28, 2013 at 11:14 AM
T Hall...some people like geese. you however, don't want your kids playing in their feces. i agree. strange as it may sound, killing them and getting rid of their feces are two completely different undertakings. killing them accomplishes only one thing. it kills some geese. that is what many people find disturbing. you kill for no reason. you can feed what little you get to the poor - better than nothing if they do not become violently ill as a result. much cheaper would be to buy food at the grocery store and donate it. as for cleaning up the feces, killing geese does nothing. one batch is gone and another moves in. kill them and another moves in. if you keep it up, you will spend yourself into oblivion and your children will be playing in goose feces, as will your grand children and theirs as well. the mayor knows this. that's why he contracted to kill them for several years. these are just the facts and you need to address them if you are going to solve your problem...
Kim February 28, 2013 at 02:25 PM
Much is being said about the adaptability of geese, and other species such as deer and squirrels, that thrive in urban and suburban areas. Hundreds of thousands of other species on this planet were not so resilient, and are now extinct. It is a curious thing that people direct so much anger toward those few species that manage to defy our mind-boggling population explosion (7.5 billion and counting), and ever-increasing pollution. We call them "invasive" and "un-natural." This is far from the truth, and a clear case of projection on our part. Some species just adapt to whatever we throw their way--it is pretty awe-inspiring. No matter how much we try to abolish them (or as Patty A says, because of) they manage to adapt and become smarter. These qualities of intelligence, strength, and resilience are the SAME qualities that we admire in humans. Well, our part of the equation here is to learn to co-exist peacefully with these highly-adaptable species who have defied the odds. And with so many options right at our fingertips that will allow us to co-exist with them and address our concerns, what excuse do we have not to?
jc February 28, 2013 at 03:49 PM
Wow, people in lower Westchester really get worked up about the killing of geese! I guess everyone who lives here is a vegetarian. I think maybe some of the energy being expended here should be redirected toward the suffering of the human population around the world. Let's try and put this in perspective, this sort of "killing" goes on everyday, all day at poultry farms. Are you raising your voice there?
Catherine Wachs February 28, 2013 at 04:11 PM
Both sides of this argument have merit.The geese will keep coming as long as there is low, tasty grass but they present a health and pollution hazard because of their large numbers. The solution is to know their habits and adjust the terrain. Geese will not land in tall grass. They cannot see predators. So if the park, as much as is practical , is turned into a more natural, wild area, they will not graze there.
Kim February 28, 2013 at 04:37 PM
A familiar argument. Yes, many of us who are worked up about the geese are also vegans, but some are not. Many of us are also working towards various issues, both human and animal. Sadly, there is enough suffering on this planet for everyone to devote their energy to whatever moves their soul on a personal level. I spend my time, professionally, helping adults and children to find ways to resolve conflicts in the most peaceful manner possible. Most of my work involves the reduction of human suffering and violence, but I certainly would never limit it to that. Getting involved in the goose issue just happened to present itself, first in my town of Scarsdale, and now in the neighboring town of Mamk.It is an extension of my peace work. What is important is that the way we behave on a seemingly small issue is by no means insignificant. When nonviolent ways to resolve an issue, large OR small (which is always a subjective determination), are readily available, and we choose to kill, that has a ripple effect. That sets a precedent, and is deserving of our efforts.
Patty A February 28, 2013 at 07:49 PM
Very intelligent and well thought out post. One suspects the real reason some people dislike geese so much is because they remind us of what we should aspire to be as humans. Like the better part of humanity, geese mate for life, peacefully organize and cooperate with each other for the better of the whole, raise and protect their young as two parents and are often willing to self sacrifice so that mates and offspring can thrive. These birds are intenseley loyal, devoted and courageous. These are also reasons why geese survive so well -- much to the hostility and resentment of some humans. One cannot help but wonder if there is not an element of jealousy in some of the human resentment? After all, geese can naturally fly and navigate thousands of miles in air, walk on land, swim in water and survive extremes of weather and temperature. Many humans cannot find their way around a mall without a GPS.
Patty A February 28, 2013 at 08:01 PM
JC: One does not have to be a vegetarian to oppose a specific cruelty against a specific species of animal. One suspects that if a poster answered your question by saying they are a vegetarian, you would accuse them of being a "fanatic." But, if they said they ate chicken, you would accuse them of being a "hypocrite." We are on to this tactic of deversion. As for the familiar, "Why aren't you helping people?" one wonders if someone was working to prevent and prosecute rape and other crime would you ask why they weren't helping homeless people? The most abused life on this planet is in fact, animals. As your post correctly points out, 5 million poultry animals are killed everyday in this country alone -- most before they are even six months old. It is the philosophy of some of us to put our efforts in those areas where most abuse and injustice occurs.
Patty A February 28, 2013 at 08:13 PM
Catherine: Good post, but the fact is, no one has presented any actual evidence that goose droppings pose any real "health hazard." (Their droppings are comprised mostly of recycled gass.) Notice that the buzz word in articles is always "may" or "might." Well, I "may" have a mansion in Hawaii, but the fact is I don't. We may not "like" goose droppings and consider them messy. But, they are not a threat to anything. As the rest of your post correctly points out however, if we really are so repulsed and bummed out over goose droppings then the most effective solution is to change the landscape so as not to attract geese in the first place. -- Long grass, shrubs and plants.
Patty A February 28, 2013 at 08:31 PM
@ Steven Kanney: Many excellent points in your post. A few things to add that others might not be aware of: If USDA comes into Mamaroneck for a roundup, they will grab EVERY goose -- not just "some." In 2010, USDA descended on Prospect Park in Brooklyn and rounded up ALL 368 flightless geese and their babies. They even captured the two "celebrity" geese, "Target" and "Beaky." (These geese were particularly beloved by residents and were written up in the NY Times. Target had survived being shot with an arrow and Beaky had a deformed beak.) This is of course very contrary to what would happen in nature. There is no animal predator that would wipe out every prey animal on the plain or in the forest. Such would be contrary to their survival. (But, such is not contray to USDA survival.) It is also contrary to most hunting regulations and human ethics to target animals who are helpless to escape or defend themselves. Notice that the hunting of geese is not allowed when the birds are molting and incapable of flight. It should also be noted that at the time of molting, geese are often sickly and feverish. Certainly, not something that should be fed to hapless, unsuspecting humans.
LifeLongResident February 28, 2013 at 09:28 PM
I just received an email from a friend about the village's democrat candidates having a question and answer meeting this Saturday. The article doesn't say what they think about the geese, it may be a good time to ask them. Here is what I was sent - In keeping with the election promise of open and transparent government, we will host an informational public meeting with our Democratic trustees on Saturday afternoon, March 2. We'll meet in the Community Room at the Mamaroneck Library from 2:30 - 4:00 to hear from the Trustees about current and upcoming issues, and for them to hear from you. We will follow up with socializing at Roasted Peppers (cash bar). Please plan to join us!! Sincerely, Village of Mamaroneck Democratic Committee Elizabeth, Elsa, Randi & Gus Village of Mamaroneck Democrats http://www.mamaroneckdems.org/
Robin Gager March 01, 2013 at 03:51 AM
What humans feel they have the right to do to other beings is beyond disgusting and arrogant.killing geese is not only inhumane it is incredibly stupid. The USDA is duping you mayor. More geese will just take their place but they will b $8000 dollars richer. People are responsible for polluting the water not geese. I know. I worked for a boat company that operated out of one of the main marina's in mammaroneck. Boats dumping pollution into the water is a far bigger problem than geese. Trying to disguise killing geese as s charitable act to feed the poor is the ultimate in insulting any average person's intelligence. The head of the NYC homeless project in ny scorned mayor Bloomberg for trying the same thing saying that these wild geese living in waters polluted by humans are not fit for human consumption. and she's right.
Kim March 02, 2013 at 08:18 PM
See this article reprinted from Audobon about how Canada geese got here. People like to think of geese as opportunistic and invasive. This is not correct. Their history is eye-opening. It makes one wonder why we human beings have such a hard time taking responsibility for our part of conflicts. http://www.canadageesenewjersey.com/Put%20blame%20where%20it%20belongs.htm
Gina von Eiff March 02, 2013 at 09:46 PM
Have you stopped to consider the seagull poop on the grass at the Harbor or the drunks' empty bottles or the drug addicts' needles? If birds cannot live in their own environment, we destroy the eco system. Scarsdale is inland - Yonkers inland and they are not killing the geese. Mamaroneck which is a shore community is THEIR HOME and has been long before we came along. I'm here 56 years and the geese have always been part of our lives. To think that one man, Norman, our mayor is deciding to desecrate an entire population is outrageous. Show me the child who got sick from goose poop - the adult - the water at the harbor has been full of disease for years with untreated raw sewage flowing in, people emptying boat toilets. Do you see signs that don't allow the baby in a soiled diaper not to go in the water? You swim in that. Let your child swallow that water. The sand at the harbor is used by all creatures to poop, raccoons, cats, dogs, crabs, seagulls, people - it's time there is a reality check and not an unbalanced approach to solve a problem. Identify the problem and then identify the solution. The village spent $30,000 of our tax dollars on a machine that works - use it. Killing the geese is not going to solve any problems, unless all you want is a harbor with no wildlife. By the way - goose poop is a great fertilizer, it should be collected and composted and sold - let the village make some money on a natural resource.
steve kanney March 02, 2013 at 10:35 PM
jc...you've made a good point. but the answer to your question may be surprising to you. we ARE helping people right now. we are helping YOU. if you engage your world acitively and with awareness, you will not kill without reason. this applies not only to humans, where the restrictions against killing are quite severe (the death penalty really doesn't cut it for that), but animals as well. some people will work on geese, others on chickens. you should not eat more meat than your body needs for health reasons. it is bad for global warming and for the environment in general. the people who have targeted geese are giving you this message here: do not kill without good cause and do your homework with diligence to be absolutely certain it is necessary. now you can carry that message to other areas of your life...that is the perspective...we are helping you right now...

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