A plan to cull a troublesome flock of Canada geese fouling the area near the pond by the Scarsdale Public Library is being criticized by animal lovers who would prefer the village find a way to chase the birds away rather than kill them. But others think harvesting the birds for food is a good idea.
Jean Wilcox of the Westchester Food Bank said that when Westchester County eliminated almost 500 geese last summer by working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the end result was 500 pounds of frozen geese breast meat for her larder. “That flew out of our inventory, so apparently people liked it,” she said.
With an estimated 200,000 people in the county hungry or at risk of hunger, Wilcox said the meat was a welcome donation. “It really does feed people. It provides protein that’s otherwise expensive to acquire. People who are hungry were happy to receive it,” she said.
Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman for USDA wildlife services, said the food donation program is a positive side effect. “It’s unfortunate the birds may have to be removed. However, rather than just throwing them away, this gives some value,” she said.
Since geese can live 20 years, culling the birds is a immediate strategy that’s paired with disrupting nesting to prevent population growth. Scarsdale is also planning to douse the birds’ nests with vegetable oil to prevent eggs from hatching. “You’d have to treat almost all nests every year for 10 years before you’d have an impact on the population,” Bannerman said. “You’ve got to have more than one method.”
Bryan Swift, a senior wildlife biologist with the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the state has about 250,000 Canada geese — three times more than the ideal number of 80,000. Goose-reduction efforts accelerated in 2009 after birds flew into the engine of US Airways Flight 1549, forcing pilot. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger to land on the Hudson. Last year, close to 5,000 Canada geese were culled through the USDA program in New York, Swift said.
Elimination occurs during the molting phase when the geese shed their feathers and are grounded for four to six weeks. They are herded like sheep and humanely euthanized before their meat is processed for donation. Some activists have questioned the safety of the meat of the wild birds, whose diet could include vegetation treated by pesticides, but the Food Bank’s Wilcox said it was not a concern since each family only received enough for one meal. “They’re obviously not raised on a farm in a controlled environment, so there is a rather daunting label on the meat when it arrives. What it says is that you should only have a serving once a month,” she said.
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