Tonawanda News

Columns

September 18, 2013

CONFER: New York has a goose problem

Tonawanda News — It’s obvious to everyone but the most ardent animal lovers that we have a serious problem on our hands with the monstrous Canada goose population. There are now so many resident geese that they have become as ubiquitous and unpopular as ring-billed gulls (“sea gulls”), birds that many people unaffectionately consider flying rats. Unlike gulls, which tend to be an obstacle only to development (see Lockport’s Super WalMart), resident geese pose real problems to the environment, the economy, and human safety.

Since they breed like rabbits (one clutch can have 15 eggs) and are colonial in nature (many families assemble in one area and the so-called “gang broods” can have up to 100 goslings), they can alter the chemistry of ponds with their abundant feces. An adult goose will produce almost 2 pounds of it a day. Those droppings, in such great volume, can over-fertilize a pond, killing the fish within. They contain everything from salmonella to E. Coli, which sickens mammals that drink or feed at that pond or anyone who might look to take a dip in it.

Adult geese are grazers and in large flocks they can really do a number to farms when they feast on corn, beans, and alfalfa just as the young and supple plants emerge from their planting. This does irreversible damage to the crops and the losses to New York farmers are in the millions of dollars every year.

What really attracts the attention of policy makers, though, is the threat geese pose to safety. This came to a head in the Empire State in 2009 when a flock of geese accounted for the downing of Flight 1549 onto the Hudson River, just 4 miles from LaGuardia Airport. All 155 passengers and crew survived thanks to the expert piloting of Captain Chesley Sullenberger. If it weren’t for “Sully” they would have met the same demise as the plane itself, which is forever gone to the tune of $60 million. In the past decade there have been almost 80 reported goose versus aircraft strikes in the United States. Sooner or later, one of those collisions will take dozens of human lives – just as one did in 1995, destroying a $161 million air force plane while killing all 25 people aboard.

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