To the dismay of some Scotia residents, many Canada geese that call the area home have recently gone missing.
Glenville resident Jacquelyn Mountain witnessed their removal June 22 while taking her dog for a walk along near the Mohawk River in Scotia. She said a team of wildlife service agents herded the geese into a fenced-in area to be moved into plastic crates and later euthanized.
A United States Department of Agriculture spokesman confirmed that Wildlife Services workers rounded up the molting birds and sent them to a processing facility out of concern that they were interfering with nearby aircraft.
“I thought, ‘Should I have run over?’ ” Mountain said. “‘Should I have yelled at them?’”
The retired teacher said she went home to drop off her dog and quickly returned to inquire further.
“I asked if they were relocating the geese, and they said their meat was going to feed the hungry,” Mountain said. “Then I asked, ‘By whose order?’ and they said, ‘The FAA.’ ”
After the geese are caught, they are euthanized and delivered to a processing facility licensed by New York State Agriculture and Markets. The meat is later processed and distributed to local food charities, USDA spokesman Travis Kocurek said.
Mountain said she contacted U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s office and created a petition on www.petitionsite.com called “DEC cease and desist in rounding up Canada Geese to kill in Schenectady County.” In a little over a week, the petition has received about 190 signatures toward its goal of 1,000.
The goose nesting site in Collins Park is located within three miles of the Schenectady County Airport.
“The geese pose a significant risk to aviation,” Kocurek said.
The Air National Guard Bureau at Schenectady County Airport issued the removal request to the USDA, which then gained permission from private property owners to remove the geese, Kocurek said. Most recently, 23 birds were captured.
In 2006, a Scotia group called Save The Geese fought against the removal of Canada geese from Collins Lake and was successful in preventing them from being killed.
The village has since rejected USDA requests to enter public parks to round up geese, Mayor Kris Kastberg said.
“The USDA has been on us,” he said. “But we just won’t have it.”
That said, the village doesn’t appreciate a large goose population, nor the droppings they leave everywhere they congregate. So as an alternative, the village uses hazing methods to harass the geese and discourage them from residing in public parks. Goose eggs are sprayed with vegetable oil so that they cannot hatch, and trained dogs are then used to chase the birds from the area, the mayor said.
“Large amounts of geese make the park unusable,” he said. “They make it so that no one wants to use the park.”
Relocation is a nonlethal strategy, but its long-term efficiency is debated because geese often migrate back to the original nesting site. Radar technology, another alternative, can warn aircraft of possible bird interference, but it has yet to be perfected.
The current Canada goose population in New York is about 200,000, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
Geese occupying air space became a larger concern in 2009 when two flew into the engines of US Airways Flight 1549 after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport, causing it to crash-land in the Hudson River. Miraculously, no one was killed, or even seriously injured, but the incident prompted the USDA to capture geese nesting in areas within close proximity to airports, Kocurek said.
The group GooseWatch NYC then formed.
“We decided to not go down without a fight,” said its leader, David Karopkin. “So we camped out.”
GooseWatch NYC set up camp at a removal site and recorded footage of USDA workers corralling the geese. Although public awareness increased, little has changed for the birds, Karopkin said.
“Killing doesn’t work,” he said. “It just lets people think that something is being done.”
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