Many New Yorkers were shocked two weeks ago when the federal Wildlife Services agency captured and gassed 400 Canada geese from Prospect Park, saying they were a threat to planes. But the federal government has been performing animal control under one name or another since 1931, first wiping out predators and now killing prey critters that cause problems for ranchers, farmers, and hunters—not to mention airlines. A field guide to what the Feds are hunting.
Canada geese have long flown over New York during migration—but the resident population was created by the government. “It’s not the result of migratory geese that just got lazy,” says the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s waterfowl expert, Bryan Swift. The state bred and released resident geese for the benefit of hunters from 1958 until 1963. But since 2004, the Feds have been killing geese near our airports, while the state has increased the bag limit for goose hunters from three to eight in an effort to control the population. (Meanwhile, in 2008, Wildlife Services killed 89,300 coyotes, which are the enemies of sheep farmers—but also, according to Ohio State environmental scientist Stanley Gehrt, the major predatory force controlling populations of … urban geese.)