Thou­sands of air­port geese killed, do­nated

New York Daily News - - NEWS - BY JAMES FANELLI

IT’S TAR­MAC-to-ta­ble din­ing.

The Canada geese that plague the city’s air­ports may have a bull’s-eye on their backs but they’ve been a bounty for food banks in the past four years, the Daily News has learned.

The fed­eral agency in charge of trap­ping the geese to pre­vent bird strikes on air­planes in New York has qui­etly do­nated thou­sands of the cap­tured fowl to slaugh­ter­houses for hu­man con­sump­tion. Those pro­cess­ing plants give them to food pantries.

The U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture’s Wildlife Ser­vices said it has given about 10,500 pounds of the meat to the needy since 2012, when it started do­nat­ing geese rounded up near LaGuardia and Kennedy air­ports. The agency said that amount of meat equals about 42,000 meals.

Canada geese flapped their wings into pub­lic en­emy sta­tus in 2009 when a flock of the birds struck a US Air­ways jet­liner shortly af­ter it took off from La Guardia, knock­ing out both en­gines.

The midair mishap led to the Mir­a­cle on the Hud­son, with pi­lot Ch­es­ley (Sully) Sul­len­berger nar­rowly avoid­ing disas­ter by safely land­ing the plane in the river. The neartragedy led to in­creased ef­forts to kill the birds.

Records ob­tained by the Daily News through a Free­dom of In­for­ma­tion Law re­quest show that Wildlife Ser­vices rou­tinely files for per­mits with the city Parks Depart­ment to kill and cap­ture the geese and other fowl near the air­ports, in Ja­maica Bay and Flush­ing Bay.

In the sum­mer of 2016, it ob­tained a per­mit to round up geese at city parks within a 7-mile ra­dius of city air­ports. The trap­pers planned to use kayaks, boats and net­ted pan­els. The green spa­ces in­cluded Flush­ing Mead­ows Corona and Ma­rine Park Golf Course.

In Jan­uary of this year, the agency asked the for per­mis­sion to use py­rotech­nics and laser lights to rid Flush­ing Bay of sev­eral species of gulls. If the non-lethal ap­proach didn’t work, they planned to use shot­guns, ac­cord­ing to the per­mit ap­pli­ca­tion.

Ear­lier this year, an Associated Press anal­y­sis found that since 2009 about 70,000 geese, gulls and other birds have been trapped and shot in the New York City area as part of abate­ment ef­forts. The AP said that dur­ing that time the num­ber of bird strikes has ac­tu­ally gone up.

Wildlife Ser­vices didn’t give away trapped geese as grub un­til 2012. Be­fore then it eu­th­a­nized and dis­posed of the birds.

“State reg­u­la­tions per­tain­ing to the do­na­tion of wild game meat were mod­i­fied in 2010-2011 to al­low for the pro­cess­ing of ‘wild’ fowl,” said Gail Keirn, a spokes­woman for Wildlife Ser­vices. “Pro­ces­sors were then li­censed and we could be­gin do­nat­ing.”

Keirn de­clined to iden­tify the slaugh­ter­houses or the food banks in the state that get the geese, cit­ing pri­vacy con­cerns.

Jeffrey Kramer, a mem­ber of an­i­mal rights group GooseWatchNYC, said do­nat­ing the trapped geese was a way to spin a stom­ach­turn­ing pro­gram. “There’s an ul­te­rior mo­tive. It makes it eas­ier to swal­low,” Kramer said of the killings.

His group says the city’s air­ports should in­vest in bet­ter radar sys­tems to avoid bird­plane col­li­sions — not kill the an­i­mals.

But Jack­son Lan­ders, a science writer and for­mer pro­fes­sional hunter, said if the feds are trap­ping Canada geese, then us­ing them for meals is a good idea. He said the bird’s meat is a lot like beef. “Ev­ery­one looks at a bird and wants to say it tastes like chicken, but wild goose is a red meat,” said Lan­ders, who au­thored the book “Eat­ing Aliens,” which chron­i­cles his foray into hunt­ing and chow­ing down on in­va­sive species.

“The best cheese­burg­ers I’ve ever eaten were with goose meat,” he said, not­ing that the bird’s fat has a low-melt­ing point, giv­ing it a but­tery tex­ture.

He said eat­ing wild geese would make him feel bet­ter than chow­ing down on chick­ens raised in fac­to­ries, which mostly spend their days in small cages.

“Eth­i­cally, I feel a lit­tle bet­ter eat­ing the wild goose than a cap­tive chicken,” he said. “A goose leads a good life in the wild and has one bad day.”

Wild birds like these brought down jet flown by Ch­es­ley (Sully) Sul­len­berger (bot­tom). Since that day in 2009, au­thor­i­ties have been killing area geese and do­nat­ing the meat to food pantries.

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