Urban Geese

Canada Geese

“Prospect Park — that was a bad situation for the geese.” – Agriculture Department official.

There has been much discussion about geese that live in urban areas, especially after the incident in New York which caused a plane to crash land into the Hudson River, back in 2009. In response to this incident, Prospect park officials killed hundreds of geese in July of 2010. In reality, thousands of such “pests” have been euthanized since the Hudson River incident and donated to food pantries. These pests, more specifically, are the Canada Geese.

Ironically, these urban geese were going extinct in the early 1900s due to egg harvesting and hunting. However, once the appropriate wildlife-friendly laws were enacted, the specie greatly increased in size. Some claim that this is due to the specie’s tendency to adapt quickly to its surroundings. There are usually two  large subspecies of the Canada Goose, based on its migrating pattern. Those found in the East during the warmer seasons are Giant Canada geese (Branta canadensis maxima). Those spotted in the west are usually western Canada geese (Branta canadensis moffitti).

Not all human-goose conflict is due to the species being an aerial threat. Rather, it is their noisy, aggressive behavior. Goose dung is one major complaint. The nitrogen in highly-concentrated dung areas can lead to an excess of algea, and thus reduced water quality. Additionally, the stomping done by these giant geese can prevent vegetation growth, leading to erosion and possible loss of habitat.

One factor that heavily adds to the nuisance of these geese is their tendency to come to their nesting areas rather early in the season. Usually, most of their nutrients are  gotten from plants, and so they can easily and systematically deplete the supply of grass in nearby areas from the beginning of spring, although studies have shown that the Canada geese tend to be very picky about the species of plant and specific parts of said plant that they can use for consumption. More specifically, the mentioned study found that the canada geese preferences correlated negatively with ash content on the leaves as well as the force necessary to break away leaves from certain plants. As an extenuation, it was found that some geese don’t forage at all on certain species of plant such as the common periwinkle ( Vinca minor), Japanese pachysandra (Pachy- sandra terminalis), and English ivy (Hedera helix).

Ultimately, New York officials plan to kill 170,000 geese. While this seems rash, one should consider that these geese have virtually no natural predators in their urban habitats thanks to the predominance of the human species. This gives the species an “unfair advantage” while increasing the chances of aerial collisions with planes.

One Response to Urban Geese

  1. Jason Munshi-South says:

    Interesting addition to the presentation, but there is a lot more to be said about this topic. Many articles have been published on it…you are just scratching the surface here, so more work needs to be done!

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