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Protesters Again Urge Freeholders to End Gassing of Canada Geese

Ocean County officials say nonlethal programs have been expensive and ineffective; activists decry inhumane gassing

Protesters holding cutouts of Canada geese and buttons picturing the birds urged the Ocean County Board of Freeholders again to abandon a contract with the federal government that provides for the killing of Canada geese as a measure of population control.

The protesters — about a dozen or so, representing GooseWatch NJ and the Humane Society of the United States as well as a handful of Ocean County residents — spoke in particular about the method used by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for killing the geese: rounding them up while they are unable to fly and then gassing them with carbon dioxide.

Since 2008, the county has contracted with the USDA for removal of a portion of the county's population of Canada geese. The contracts have cost $64,243, with more than 650 geese killed so far. But Freeholder Deputy Director John Bartlett said that contract was entered into after a decade of attempting to control the geese through nonlethal methods and seeing no improvement.

"It's not up to us to gas them because we find them inconvenient," said Judy Allen, a resident of Greenbriar Woodlands in Toms River. "There has to be a better alternative. I don't approve of my tax money going to this."

At the end of the meeting, Bartlett directed Michael Mangum, director of the department of Parks and Recreation, to talk with the protest groups to see if there were any other solutions that have not been considered.

The protesters first spoke at the May 16 freeholders meeting, with five speakers —none from Ocean County — speaking against the contract. At that time, Bartlett, the liaison to the county's parks and recreation department, said the issue isn't one of inconvenience as much as one of health and safety.

According to a 2009 post on the blog Birdstrike Control Program, New Jersey is home to roughly 80,000 Canada geese, the largest population of any state in the country. How many of those reside in Ocean County is unclear but the problem, officials say, is the geese are resident Canada geese — not ones migrating to and from Canada.

The goose population began growing significantly in the 1980s and 1990s, and Bartlett said that as the population expanded, the county began having water quality issues at Stanley "Tip" Seaman Park in Tuckerton and A. Paul King Park in Manahawkin, forcing repeated swimming closures of the lakes at both parks.

"Lake Manahawkin was closed for years because of water quality issues," Bartlett said. "Elimination of geese has allowed us to restore swimming at that park."

"These are resident, non-migratory geese that were not here ... 20 years ago," Bartlett said, noting the county had tried dogs to chase the geese, firing blanks from shotguns to scare them, repellents, eagle kites (a predator of Canada geese) and physical barriers — but none were effective. Over time, the geese realized there was no real threat and came back, he said.

"We’ve done addling of eggs and that works to some extent if you can find all nests and get to them, but you can’t," he said. Addling of eggs involves shaking the eggs so they won't hatch. Another method of preventing the hatching of eggs involves coating them with oil, essentially suffocating the embryo because the oil blocks the shell's permeability.

Kathleen Schatzmann, New Jersey state director of the HSUS, suggested that perhaps the county's past attempts to use nonlethal means were not chosen well.

"Harassment strategies are immensely more effective," said Schatzmann, who lives in Monmouth County. "I implore you to stop the gassing."

Suzanne Dragon of Aberdeen said often the problem is that agencies trying use nonlethal methods don't use them effectively.

"They implement a little bit of this a little bit of that, and they don't give it long enough to work," she said. "If you want to have a lasting solution, you need to do it exactly as Geese Peace (another organization fighting the killing of Canada geese) says."

But Dragon sparked Bartlett's ire when she began to draw a comparison between gassing the geese and the gassing of Jews during the Holocaust. Dragon, who is Jewish, said, "You have no idea what it feels like to someone who had family members who were gassed," to which Bartlett replied the comparison was inappropriate.

Things also got testy when David Sauder, president of the Animal Rights Activists of NJ, began to recite information that contends droppings from the geese — the birds produce between a half-pound and a pound of feces per day, according to the Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service — do not contribute significantly to water quality issues.

"Domestic animal waste and poor water circulation are much greater causes of water quality problems," Sauder said.

Bartlett interrupted Sauder: "You're saying domestic animal waste as opposed to wild animal waste?" and Sauder insisted the geese droppings were not the problem.

"The droppings are merely lying on the ground," he said.

Sauder cited information from a biologist who previously worked for the state that said the droppings did not carry a significant amount of the types of bacteria that are associated with human illnesses, such as E. coli, giardia, salmonella and cryptosporidium.

"The amount of cryptosporidium is minimal and unimportant," Sauder said. "The giardia transmission is small compared to humans."

"Toddlers pose a far greater risk to public health than Canada geese," Sauder said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, Canada goose feces contain all of the bacteria listed above and many more, including a variant of chlamydia that was labeled as a serious threat. But the CDC notes there is not enough data on the risk because few studies have been done on the feces. The US Geologic Survey, in concert with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, conducted a study in the late 1990s that noted the existence of pathogens in the feces. A report issued in 2003 for the 10th Wildlife Damage Control conference also noted the lack of data and a need for further study. (Both documents are attached to this story in pdf form.)

An 2009 article in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, produced by the American Society for Microbiology, concluded: "The importance of free-living bird populations as reservoirs for human waterborne pathogens is becoming increasingly evident. Due to their migratory character, waterfowl populations can amplify and eventually transmit infectious microbes to humans by directly contaminating agricultural fields or surface waters used for potable water, recreation, or crop irrigation."

But it, too, notes more research is needed.

Bartlett and Freeholder Joseph H. Vicari, who was a principal in the Brick Township schools in the 1990s, said the risk wasn't just to water quality.

"I had kids with eye infections, their parents coming to me asking for help," Vicari said.

Josh Barr of GooseWatch NJ suggested, in a letter to the freeholders that he distributed to the media, that the problem of kids getting skin infections could be dealt with by more parents teaching their children to wash their hands.

"I've played on fields with bird slicks, swam in water where bird bombs touched down. But I also had parents who taught me the highly complex art of washing my hands," he wrote. "It's not a cure-all. It will help."

"I would love to have them (the protesters) talk to some of the moms who've called us," Mangum said after the meeting.

GooseWatch NJ contends nonlethal methods are less costly, citing how Lacey Township went from spending $9,000 on lethal means of dealing with the geese to $3,000 on nonlethal means.

According to Lacey Township Administrator and Municipal Clerk Veronica
Laureigh, the township has expended about $5,700 to date on nonlethal methods to control the geese population. Laureigh noted that is only for two lakes, which is a small condensed area compared to the county
areas.

Bartlett said nonlethal methods were more expensive than the contracts it's had in place since 2008.

"We spent $53,000 on border collies," Bartlett said Wednesday. But the county was unable to provide a complete estimate of how much it cost to employ the nonlethal methods.

"Because of the number of other methods used — including but not limited to dogs, sound machines, guns firing blanks, owls, plastic alligators, repellents, physical barriers, etc, and the number of years over which we have used these techniques, we don't have a running tally of the cost available," said Donna Flynn, the county's public information director.

Mangum did point out after the meeting that the USDA contract is not just for gassing the birds.

"They are addling the eggs as well," Mangum said. But the county can only get to nests on its property, which means other places the geese are nesting go untouched. A pair of Canada geese produces three to eight young per year, which means the population can increase rapidly.

And the problem of the feces isn't just limited to swimming, he noted. Even if you use a machine such as one Sauder suggested called "Nature Sweep," which picks up the debris from grassy areas, Mangum said, the residue is still left behind.

"Parks are built for people and we invest a lot of money in that," Bartlett said. "It's unfortunate but the only (method) that works is to eliminate the geese through the program with the USDA."

"We always look for other means," Mangum said. "This is a last resort."

Berkeley Lifer June 16, 2012 at 03:34 PM
Mark you can NEVER appease these fowl mouthed people.And they will continue to spin any comment to their liking.If only they put this much passion into keeping an eye on their children and what they were up to maybe i would respect them more.Their to busy here posting about the poor Geese while their kids are probably raiding their medicine stashes!Rock on Mark i appreciate your dedicated work!
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 03:41 PM
@ Patty A, here is the explanation you requested. The plane suffered a less serve engine stall on a previous flight. They reported to the passengers they may have to make an emergency landing but they were able to restart said engine with no difficulty and resumed flight. The problem was a faulty temperature sensor that was replaced and allowed the aircraft to resume flight without delay. The NTSB's investigation into the emergency landing into the Hudson River near the USS Intrepid reveled organic material in the engine including a feather. DNA testing of the material determined it to be from a Canadian Goose. The European Aviation Safety Agency and Bureau d"Enquetes et d"Analyses pour la Securite du l"Avation Civile and Airbus agreed and assisted with the NTSB's investigation of the accident.
Patty A June 16, 2012 at 03:47 PM
Hey, Mark you forget to mention that the Smithsonian Institute determined the feathers to be from migratory geese from Labrador, Canada. But, hey, who needs facts anyway? You also forget to mention that the same NTSB made a list of recommendations following the flight 1549 debacle, NONE of which involved the killings of resident Canada geese. But, hey who needs facts?
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 03:49 PM
@ Berkeley Lifer, as you can see when Patty A was posting that dribble I was in fact doing the very thing she accused me of not doing. The NTSB report clearly debunks EVERYTHING she has said. Instead of going to the report from the 3 investigating agencies she relies on a CNN news report that proceeds the actual investigation. She than reports as to the reoccurring problem with the Airbus like she is a recall agency. Was the first incident the cause of gesse? No it was a sensor that was replaced. Was the second incident the cause of geese? YES it was and the proof was all over the inside of the engine. What she is basically trying to say here I assume is that the aircraft in question was doomed to fail regardless of the goose that brought it down that day into the Hudson. But it was clearly a goose that brought it down that day.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 03:55 PM
@Patty F, Yes you'd would like the whole report reprinted here? Did I mention those things?, no but the USDA mentions control of geese near airports VERY CLEARLY. And than again they mention control of geese just not in the words you are using, "killing". Many Airbus's had the temperature control problem but this one was repaired. VERY SIMPLE FACT THE PLANE SUFFERED AN ENGINE PROBLEM DUE TO GEESE. Once again you twist everything to suit your needs and avoid the easy facts.
Patty A June 16, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Hey, Mark, why don't you read the FAA's actual report on the tendency of Airbus 320 to have engine stall problems. http://www.airliners.net/aviation-forums/tech_ops/read.main/246674/ Oh, and guess what? According to the lastest SEIS from USDA, Airbus 320's are also the planes most likely to collide with birds.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:01 PM
@ patty A, I believe none of that BS. Yeah they can tell it was from Labrador, maybe it was there once but they cant tell me it didn't relocate and pick up residence in NY. (although who would purposely move there?)The fact is that your little goose friends brought down that aircraft and continue to cause a treat to aircraft, from the point you are making I can see the safest thing is to eliminate all geese. Something I did not think of until you tried to support them. Good advocating there.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:02 PM
@ Patty ......Huggers? I have used only the word lovers, further proof that you don't look at everything.
Patty A June 16, 2012 at 04:03 PM
Here is the real bottom line, Mark. Flight 1549 should NOT have been in the air that day, period. It was a deficient plane model and a nearly DISFUNCTIONAL airliner as should have been shown on the previous flight. Put another way, use a little COMMON SENSE, Mark. How many planes that collide with birds end up in rivers? ONE. Now, if we had any brains at all, we should have questioned, "WHY?"
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:10 PM
@ Patty F, As a huge transportation fan and one who has spent a life reading on the subject as well a an Flightaware member who gets daily reports from the world of air travel I am in fact well aware of the facts regarding the Airbus and the many problems this aircraft and it's sister 318 have had as do almost all aircraft. You still over and over and over and over avoid the facts. If someone says "the NTSB reported the plane was brought down due to a goose" you go and start blaming the aircraft's peccadilloes that not only were repaired in the case but had nothing to due with the original point. The point being was that a goose was to blame.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:12 PM
@ patty, still avoiding the facts here, a goose did it, your goose friends are plane murders.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:17 PM
Here they go again folks, the plane should have been in the air, it was defective, it was prone to failure, it was blue and white and that make's geese want to fly straight into the engines. If my truck runs over any geese than I guess my defense will be that this model of Toyota 4X4 is more prone to hit geese and this model of truck has had many problems with goose avoidance.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Yeah most of them just crash into land Patty. Maybe those deer whistle things would have worked? Plane goose whistles.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:20 PM
Thank You County Freeholders for making air travel in the busy NY region safer.
Berkeley Lifer June 16, 2012 at 04:27 PM
I second that motion,thank you county freeholders and please provide more gear and help for Mark who is doing a great job!
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:32 PM
Those are words that you are putting in my mouth and something I never said. But by your logic and words you wrote and posted here that if the aircraft had been grounded due to some other problem it would not have been there to hit the birds. As if the Boeing aircraft that would have been in it's place at the same time would have somehow avoided the birds. Answer a simple question without any and or buts, Did a goose or geese case the emergency landing of 1549 as the US, European, French agencies as well as the aircraft's manufacturer say? Yes or No.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 04:34 PM
I know if this was put to a county wide vote it would win by a landslide, I would welcome that move by the county. It would be whatever to 12. Oh wait those protesters are not from the county and nether is Patty A. Maybe it would be voting population to nothing.
Mark Wendell June 16, 2012 at 08:17 PM
Hey paul, tracey, lamar, martin is back, what name will you come up with next.
Berkeley Lifer June 16, 2012 at 08:30 PM
http://youtu.be/MrXnDbOpxU4
Mark Wendell June 17, 2012 at 12:42 AM
@Lacey taxpayer, I have made no comments regarding race, as you can see, in any of my post's nor have a made a comment to those post's that have. The ONLY views we hold together would be the control of the goose population the County of Ocean is using. I hold no ill will toward anybody nor do I know Project Bluebeam or Berkeley Lifer past Patch.
Berkeley Lifer June 17, 2012 at 03:23 AM
@jim brown,your a Tool,why don't you try reading your other Goose stepping tree huggers comments more thoroughly?Again selective segments that your brain digested are missed.I guess your Goose loving pal's are completely innocent when they insult others integrity?Try going back and reading the comments again that your so called victims posted.View their venom they unleashed upon others who had a different opinion.
Shep Proudfoot June 17, 2012 at 04:43 PM
I believe this comment board should just be erased at this point. Patch are you seeing this? Most of these posts are in violation of your rules.
Mark Wendell June 17, 2012 at 04:45 PM
@jim brown, come on with the 7 different screen names that you use and that seem to pop up at the perfect time. The names you make up are racist enough without any words.You talk about me associating with the others here like it is not anything other than some board were people are sitting in their own home's typing. This isn't a nightclub here. You or I can not control who type's in after a posting. If you say that anything I say you cant be swayed because of other posters that just shows the kind of person you are. Once again someone here shows that their position is so important that they will gode people into saying dumb things and make up persona's at every turn.
Patty A June 17, 2012 at 05:23 PM
I think all the comments should be left -- so Freeholders know exactly what mentality they are pandering to when deciding to "rid" the town of geese. That seems to be merely the first step in what the goose haters want to "get rid of."
Berkeley Lifer June 17, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Perhaps the moderator of this thread should search through the Bird lover's comments and remove the falsehoods they posted?I didn't delete jack bone Pal.75% of that vote was multiple votes from your 10 different screen names on the patch.Anyway it was quite fun getting under your skin : )
Kathleen Quinn September 09, 2012 at 10:56 PM
It seems to me that all other creations besides man are the ones who need to move somewhere else or be killed to make more room for man. Has anyone ever thought that maybe WE are the ones who are overbreeding? Perhaps we should start a human neutering program or set up gas chambers for ourselves! I bet if we were the ones next in line do die like animals do there would be no more complaning about other species who SHARE our planet with us!
SANDY PARISI January 18, 2013 at 04:07 AM
WHY, WHY, WHY is an article dated June 2012 being put in The Patch Jan 2013 without some type of update? Does Patch just want to use up space with old stories. Hey, I don't mind an old story if it is updated. I can't imagine the story being absolutely identical.
Mustang Sally April 04, 2013 at 09:29 PM
What happens to the gased geese's remains? Where do all the euthanized animals go? Isn't this a disastrous way to handle a problem? Death and Decay surrounding us. Find their natural predators. Or are we the predators?
anonymous April 04, 2013 at 10:10 PM
Anyone who has served and had to be gassed just to see what it was going to feel like in combat can tell you its awful I cant say I beleive in this method of extermination. Dont really know enough on subject to post what i think should be done. I do know protests though and to all that stood up for what they beleived in you have a freind in anonymous. Have a graet day keep up the good fight if you feel deep down that something is wrong no matter how many peaple say negative things about your stance on a subject. Dont give in Never give up anonymous
Marcel Kay April 27, 2013 at 10:09 PM
Cooked Goose , Yummy, why gas this wonderfull and tasty Renewable Resource! We need to harvest these birds and process them and feed them to the Inmates of the prison system ! Same goes for those pesky Deer that ruin the Crops and damage all of our cars !

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