Animal lovers ask Westchester to spare geese from future mass killings

The controversy began last summer when Westchester offcials euthanized hundreds of geese.

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Westchester County officials told animal advocates Wednesday that the July 2012 decision to kill hundreds of geese at a county-owned golf course likely would not be repeated.

The move, in which county Parks Department workers rounded up 500 geese from a Yonkers golf course and sent the meat to a food processing plant to be turned into goose burgers that were fed to the poor, was roundly criticized by some animal and nature lovers. Officials said Wednesday that it had effectively reduced the population of the birds, which were overrunning the Sprain Lake Golf Course.

"If we need to do it again, we will consider it, but it will be the end of looking at every other means," said Westchester County Deputy Parks Commissioner Peter Tartaglia after a Wednesday morning chat between county Parks Department officials at their Ardsley offices and half a dozen concerned animal lovers.

Advocate Kiley Blackman, who praised county officials for "very graciously" setting up the closed-door meeting at her request, said she was "satisfied" that a dialogue was under way.

"We would like to be included more, and this will be an ongoing exchange," she said.

Last summer's goose kill was authorized by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It took place in July while the geese were molting, making it easier to catch the birds as they cannot fly while shedding their feathers.

For humans to capture and destroy the birds while they are so defenseless is "inhumane," said Loraine Izzo, who is a wildlife rehabilitator licensed by the state and federal government to help rescue and care for wounded woodland animals. "The meeting was productive, and the county is open to our suggestions," said Izzo, who wants more alternatives posted on the county website to educate other communities on alternatives.

"If Westchester County ends up resorting to lethal methods, other municipalities may follow suit," she said.

Scarsdale considered taking similar steps, but village leaders recently backed down after the response at public hearings. Scarsdale resident Kimberly Gold said she was "outraged" by the suggestion of culling and felt it was important to attend the Wednesday county meeting.

"One of the reasons I moved here from New York City was to see hawks and nature," she said. "If we just started to get rid of everything that inconvenienced us, for me, it would be unlivable."

Both sides said they discussed alternative methods, many of which had been tried at Sprain Lake Golf Course. In the past, the county had tried rubbing oil on goose eggs to stop them from hatching, renting border collies to chase the birds away and installing fake coyotes and real humans to chase the geese. So far, the most promising solution has been a battery-powered, $2,500 Goosinator, a machine that last fall proved effective in shooing the annoying fowl off the greens and into nearby ponds.

Tartaglia said the Goosinator will be hauled out again in March.

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