For safer skies, U.S. senator proposes killing geese, other birds

NEW YORK -- Warning of a possible disaster if something isn’t done soon, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York is pushing lawmakers to make it easier for wildlife officials to cull Canada geese and other birds near New York City airports, where two jet-bird collisions have been reported in the last week.

“We cannot afford to sit back and wait for a catastrophe to occur before cutting through bureaucratic red tape between federal agencies,” Gillibrand said Wednesday as she proposed  the legislation, which focuses on the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge near  John F. Kennedy International Airport. “We cannot and should not wait another day to act while public safety is at risk.” 

The refuge is home to hundreds of species of birds and other creatures, and its proximity to JFK has led to some unusual animal-aircraft encounters. In July, jets using one runway were delayed briefly as scores of turtles that lay their eggs at the refuge began waddling across the pavement. 

On April 19, a Delta Air Lines jet bound for Los Angeles made an emergency landing at JFK shortly after taking off from the airport when birds were sucked into one of its engines. Five days later, a JetBlue flight bound for Florida returned to Westchester Airport north of the city minutes after it hit two Canada geese upon takeoff. Nobody was injured in either incident, but both were reminders of the so-called Miracle on the Hudson in January 2009, when a US Airways jet landed safely in the Hudson River after Canada geese sucked into one of its engines disabled the jet.


Gillibrand said her bill would cut through red tape  that is slowing response to the issue and require the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies to expedite completion of an environmental study to clear the way for removal of Canada geese from Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge this summer. The goal is to cull the geese during their annual molting season, which begins in June; the geese are flightless during this time, as they shed their outer feathers and grow new ones. 

Past efforts to deal with the geese in New York and in other goose-heavy cities across the country by rounding them up from parks and gassing them have been denounced by wildlife lovers, and already, Canada geese fans in New York are trying to drum up opposition to Gillibrand’s proposal. “Help us stop impending bird massacre!” one person wrote Thursday on a Facebook page dedicated to Canada geese in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, the site of a major goose cull in 2010.


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