Park Avengers

Prospect Collies to Drive
Geese Away (from Planes)

Last year they rounded up hundreds of geese and shot them. Everybody got mad. So this time, they dialed up the Collies.
It’s fair to say that when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger successfully averted a major disaster over the skies of New York City, in 2009, safely landing a commercial U.S. Airways plane full of passengers in the Hudson River, everybody was happy. It was a major accomplishment of the veteran pilot, a feat of sheer skill and courage, and a great piece of positive news that made the rounds across the globe.
Soon after, though, the reasons for the emergency landing became clear and the culprits were identified: it was all the Canadian Geese’s fault. What not many had realized then was that flocks of geese had already collided many times with planes departing from or landing at JFK and La Guardia, and had been very close to causing a major tragedy before. With the Airways flight it was no different; birds flew straight into both turbines of the plane, killing themselves and the motors midair.
That lucky bunch of harried travelers was not quite done thanking Sully, when the public outcry started. It’s been known that city geese no longer migrate and much prefer to stay around all year, but don’t we all these days? No way, people went on: geese need to migrate and if they don’t, well, it’s just plain wrong; it’s also unhealthy the way they ruin every small body of water they settle in; in case you wonder, they’re unfit for human consumption; and now you say they can cause a major disaster too? Someone has to do something about it. So the Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services did.
Last year, the federal agency killed 1,509 geese in the city, including that day in July when agents showed up at Prospect Park, rounded up 368 of them, shot them, gathered their carcasses and took them away to be burned. You probably know what happened next. Maybe because no one knew about the plans in advance, or the fact that the park seems farther away from the JFK and La Guardia airports than officials believe, a new public outcry arose, even louder than before.
Brooklyn residents felt they were being singled out for the shocking killing, activists organized mournful vigils, politicians did what politicians do best in such cases, but don’t ask, we’re not sure what it is that they do in such cases, the whole episode stank big time for those who come to the part often and kinda like the birds.
Not that they are an exception, but there are other New Yorkers who feel that the 15,000 to 20,000 resident geese of the city are way over an acceptable quota and, they ask, shouldn’t they have a place to go to every year or something? It’s more than the proverbial “not on my backyard” type of situation, of course. The risk their big numbers represent is real, but so should be our utmost respect to every living being. Or at least, the ways their existence alongside us is kept manageable.
So this year, the park decided to try something different. And it does have to do with respect. As in the respect geese have toward dogs. Border Collies, to be exact. Like Cleo, a paid dog who was hired by officials to patrol the Prospect Park lake, chase the geese from land and, if they land on the water, chase them from there too, aboard a kayak. She’s well trained by Goose Busters, experts in the field, and will have help from her equally trained but older friends Spanky and Samantha.
As when Sally landed that plane, everyone seems pleased and it should be all O.K. at the Prospect Park Corral this year, no shootings scheduled. But it may take a while. If Cleo and her friends do their job well, geese will fly over to nearby Green-Wood Cemetery. There, they use two kites that look like eagles to chase the geese away. Given the few green options around the area, chances are they will head back to Prospect Park. That will certainly call into action the dogs again and so on and so forth. It may be entertaining to watch it happening for a while, while you picnic at either place.
And for those who’re already thinking it’ll all be a waste of time, just remember: it’s better to keep the birds busy flying back and forth between the park and the cemetery, than to have them heading toward the airports. Because if it doesn’t work, and so far no one has had any other brilliant idea to solve the problem, you know who’ll be back, right? no, not Arnie, you Terminator buff. Just the straight shooters of the DoA, no pun intended.

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