Take One Last Gander at NJ Geese

"Capture and removal" program taking place for six weeks

Federal officials are trapping and killing Canada geese in nine New Jersey counties -- part of an ongoing effort by aviation officials to avoid the type of collision that caused an airliner to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River last winter.

U.S. Agriculture Department spokeswoman Carol Bannerman confirms the "capture and removal" program is taking place for six weeks, the time the birds are molting and cannot fly.

Hundreds of Canada geese will be removed from parks, golf courses and areas near airports. A removal program last year reduced the population by about 2,000 birds.

A similar program is under way in New York City, which plans to trap and gas up to 2,000 Canada geese over the next few weeks.

The hazard the birds pose to aircraft became a focus when U.S. Airways Flight 1549 landed in the Hudson River after striking a flock and losing both engines. The jet had just taken off from LaGuardia and was 2,800 feet over the Bronx when it smacked into the birds. Pilot Chesley Sullenberger became a national hero when he set the plane down safely in the river.

In New York, some 40 public parks will be swept free of geese, including Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens. The roundup is being carried out by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

“The serious dangers that Canada geese pose to aviation became all too clear when geese struck U.S. Airways Flight 1549,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg said in a written statement.

The episode brought attention to the hazard that birds can pose to aircraft, especially in New York City, where some of the nation's busiest airports sit side by side with bird-rich wetlands.

Bird lovers expressed mixed feelings about the culling program.

Glenn Phillips, executive director at the New York City Audubon Society, said the Canada goose population in the city and its suburbs has indeed soared to an unnatural level in recent years as the birds have flourished in a habitat with plenty of lawn for grazing and few predators.

But he said he was unconvinced that the kill will make flying safer. There are an estimated 25,000 Canada geese living in the metropolitan area, and killing a few hundred or even 2,000 won't make much of a difference.

Tens of thousands of birds, mostly gulls, have been shot over the past few decades as part of a wildlife control effort run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, but much of that effort has taken place out of public view.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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