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More Than 700 Canada Geese Culled Near JFK Airport

By Smriti Rao | July 10, 2012 3:20pm
An aerial view of John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on April 15, 2011.
An aerial view of John F. Kennedy Airport (JFK) on April 15, 2011.
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Spencer Platt/Getty Images

QUEENS — More than 700 Canada geese from the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge — deemed potential hazards to planes at nearby Kennedy Airport were rounded up and sent to a slaughterhouse in upstate New York, where they will be killed for their meat, federal officials said.

The move, which outraged animal rights activists, was the latest in a series of controversial culling efforts designed to eliminate geese who live in areas near flight paths.

The effort was sparked by a 2009 bird strike that forced hero U.S. Airways pilot Capt. Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River.

Monday’s culling, which slashed the bird population at the Jamaica refuge by nearly half, comes months after a Los Angeles-bound Delta Airlines jet with 179 passengers on board made an emergency landing at JFK in April with a smoking engine after it was hit by birds.

The latest roundup brings the total number of birds removed from the wildlife refuge by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in the past two weeks to 751, officials said.

The goose meat from Monday's roundup will be distributed to food banks upstate, with each goose expected to yield about a pound of breast meat, said Carol Bannerman, of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has been pushing for federal agents to enter the bird sanctuary for the last three years — arguing that the geese were a flight hazard and needed to be culled in the molting season in June and July — when it’s easy to round them up, Metro reported.

However, wildlife lovers have decried the culling, with David Karopkin of GooseWatch NYC, an organization that monitors geese culling in New York, telling the paper that he was "sick to his stomach."

"These operations are done with no transparency, no public approval — for the most part, we are told after the fact," he told the paper.

Advocates have organized anti-culling protests, including one in front of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's East 79th Street apartment in recent weeks.

Bannerman, however, said the USDA "understood people's attachment to geese," and was working on new technology like special lights that can be attached to planes so that birds don't fly into them.

She said that no more cullings were scheduled for this year.