The answer has arrived: 1,509 citywide, including 368 at Prospect Park and 208 at Alley Pond Park in Queens, and 167 more in western Nassau County. The figures (see also below) were quietly released in November in a report presented for review to the New York City Airports Wildlife Hazard Management Steering Committee.
In June and July 2010, the U.S.D.A.’s Wildlife Services observed 1,877 geese in 19 sites across the city and western Nassau and removed 89 percent of them, the report stated.
The largest share — more than 40 percent — were removed from Brooklyn parks, but geese were also taken in the Bronx and Manhattan. Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx had the third most geese killed, 157.
Some 1,235 were removed in 2009, and in sites surveyed both years, a 51 percent decrease in the geese population was observed, according to the reports.
The removals, which stirred criticism from animal protection groups and animal lovers, were authorized after the January 2009 ditching of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River, after geese flew into its engines and disabled them.
Concerns over aviation hazards for public and military aircraft led to a plan to reduce New York City’s estimated 20,000 to 25,000 geese — a number “five times the amount that most people would find socially acceptable,” the initial report read — to about 4,000. A larger plan also called for the near halving of the Canada geese population in 17 Atlantic states, from 1.1 million to 650,000.
“The Federal Aviation Administration and United States Air Force have established a zero-tolerance policy for Canada geese on and near airports,” the latest report read. Birds within seven miles of New York City airports “were targeted to the extent reasonable.” Advocates for the geese pointed out that the lake in Prospect Park is more than nine miles from Kennedy International and La Guardia Airports.
But air safety was not the only consideration behind the killings. The drastic measures were also taken to protect “water supplies from fecal contamination, public and private property from damage to turf and ornamental plantings, loss of land use to excessive fecal droppings,” the report read.
Geese were also removed from areas where the city recently spent some $27.5 million to restore wetlands.
“Improving safety to the aviation industry and its customers is paramount, but the added value of reducing damage to New York City’s public properties and increasing environmental health should be acknowledged,” the report concluded.
The geese’s numbers rebounded quickly after the roundups — there were more than 100 in Prospect Park again by August, and more than 150 by October. And so the Agriculture Department is gearing up for another round of goose removals this year, using new capturing techniques, focusing on more sites and extending the hunt beyond the molt season. It also plans to increase enforcement of existing no-feeding policies.