Take a Gander: Not All Geese Are Treated Equally

Central Park Conservancy's quiet border collie plan to corral geese

By Andrew Siff
|  Saturday, Aug 14, 2010  |  Updated 9:13 AM EDT
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Take a Gander: Not All Geese Are Treated Equally

NBCNewYork

A little girl feeds the geese in Central Park.

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Long before Sully parked a jet on the Hudson -- a maneuver made necessary because of Canada geese -- The Central Park Conservancy was trying to scatter the winged creatures.

Central Park's strategy, which started in 2007, had nothing to do with keeping the birds away from planes. Geese, however, in large clusters, can fowl up grassy areas, and disrupt other forms of wildlife.

"Geese can upset the Park's ecological systems," said Kari Wethington, Conservancy spokeswoman. "Their droppings, which are high in nitrogen, have a negative effect on grassy lawns as well as shoreline plantings, while spurring algae growth and lessening water quality in the Park's water bodies. The geese also take a toll on wildlife, with a tendency to push other waterfowl away."

So for the last three years, Central Park has used specially trained border collies to get the geese to relocate. "The Conservancy's program encourages the geese to disperse, while keeping both the animals and the Park's landscapes safe," said Wethington.

In contrast, U.S. Agriculture Department officials ordered the slaughter last month of more than 400 geese in Prospect Park. The Brooklyn greenspace is considered too close for comfort to air space near both LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports.

"That seems kind of extreme," said Rafael Soto, who was fishing in Central Park alongside a flock of geese at the Harlem Meer. "Maybe they could do something else -- like turn those geese into meals for needy families," he said.

But whatever the approach -- officials from the city, state and federal government acknowledge the bird problem has gotten out of hand.

This week, animal rights protesters lobbied Mayor Bloomberg to speak out against the recent bird killings in Brooklyn.

"Give geese a chance," they chanted, carrying signs and banners outside the Mayor's Upper East Side townhouse.

Bloomberg's office declined comment, but pointed out that last month, when asked about the goose controversy,  The Mayor said: "It’s geese or human beings -- I can tell you where I come out on that."

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