Geese and Airplanes — Is Extermination the Answer?

Guest Blogger Alexandra Dapolito Dunn, Pace Law School.  June 22, 2009.

This is my first contribution to the Animal Blawg.  I mentioned to my colleague, Prof. David Cassuto, that I was somewhat troubled by recent stories about how Canadian geese are being managed at LaGuardia Airport following the “double bird strike” which brought down US Airways Flight 1549 in January 2009.  Under New York City’s plan, up to 2,000 geese will be relocated and destroyed (largely gassed) during their June and July molting season, when they can not fly.  The ostensible reason is that the geese constitute a public health hazard.

The latest update on this story was posted just hours ago in USA Today.com — see

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-06-21-geese_N.htm

The stories surprised me.  However, quick research revealed that aggressive geese management is quite common.  According to the USA Today article, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s “Wildlife Services rounds up geese every year from golf courses, parks and other locations where landowners or cities ask for help. In 2008, the agency killed 14,041 geese in 43 states.  Permissions must be obtained for such removals, as Canadian geese are migratory birds, protected under state and federal law.

Given that this process concerned me, so I did some looking into alternatives to extermination.  The one that comes up most frequently is “egg addling” which involves removing adult birds from their nests and covering their eggs with oil. The adult birds continue to sit on the nest for two to three weeks, but the eggs do not hatch since the oil prevents respiration of the developing embryo. I’m not sure this is a satisfying alternative, since it involves disrupting a natural process for the geese.

So, I am left pondering.  We have too many geese . . . how do we manage them in a responsible and respectful manner?

2 Responses

  1. There is no rational alternative to exterminating geese where their presence endangers aviation. There is no question of a balance here. Airports can not be relocated and the geese can’t either. Bird strikes on aircraft are more common than many realize, the downing of the Southwest airliner on takeoff from LaGuardia being a major but not unexpected event.

    Preventing eggs from hatching does nothing to remove the adult birds from the airport environment and these birds live a fairly long life. Further, eggs would have to be found and treated with oil every mating season. The clash between human safety and animal welfare can not be resolved by compromise or by any technique that takes the birds from the danger zone. It’s that simple.

  2. CBS

    American Airlines Flight 1256 a Boeing 737 en route to LaGuardia Airport, landed safely after declaring a bird strike about 900 feet before it landed on June 30, 2009.

    CBS
    Queens, NY – An American Airlines passenger jet headed towards LaGuardia Airport was forced to make an emergency landing after a collision with birds, the Federal Aviation Administration confirmed.

    The American Airlines Flight 1256 was approaching the Queens airport from Miami when it reported the bird strike just after 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning, at approximately 900 feet altitude.

    The plane’s pilot landed the Boeing 737 safely on runway 22, with no reports of injuries.

    The Port Authority confirmed to CBS 2 HD that the plane’s pilot complained of nose gear problems as a result of the strike.

    The plane was directed to Gate 10 where it is currently being inspected.

    Airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 major U.S. airports since 2000, and New York’s Kennedy airport and Sacramento International report the most incidents with serious damage, according to Federal Aviation Administration data released for the first time.

    The FAA list of wildlife strikes, published on the Internet, details more than 89,000 incidents since 1990, including 28 cases since 2000 when a collision with a bird or other animal such as a deer on a runway was so severe that the aircraft was considered destroyed.

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