Thousands of airport geese killed, donated
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.