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Advocates condemn feds' euthanizing of Baldwin park geese

John Di Leonardo, President of LION and Senior

John Di Leonardo, President of LION and Senior Manager at PETA, far right, speaks as animal activists from PETA and Long Island Orchestrating for Nature gather at Milburn Pond, in Baldwin, to honor the 86 Canada geese who were recently mistakenly killed there by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services department, Wednesday. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Wildlife advocates urged government officials to more humanely manage the Canada geese population in Nassau County, after a federal agency disclosed it erred in June by removing 86 of the birds that were later euthanized from a Baldwin park.

Newsday reported over the weekend that the U.S. Department of Agriculture acknowledged it had rounded up the geese from Milburn Pond Park in June. The agency said officials mistakenly assumed the park was within a 7-mile radius used for removing birds from Kennedy Airport in Queens, but the park is farther than that.

The geese were euthanized and the agency "apologized" to Nassau County's parks department and residents for any "confusion," citing an "administrative error." 

The meat was distributed to local food pantries.

The federal agency, in response to Newsday's inquiries last week, also acknowledged that it had gathered 154 Canada geese from Milburn in 2016. Those geese also were euthanized.

The animal-rights group PETA, and other local environmentalists, heavily criticized the USDA removal after Newsday's report. Advocates planned a vigil at the park Wednesday night.

“They are very quick to massacre geese, and so quick here they didn't even have the right approval to move forward with this," said John Di Leonardo, senior manager with PETA and president of Long Island Orchestrating for Nature. "Their apology is really meaningless, it does nothing for the 86 geese."

“This is our tax dollars going to needlessly and carelessly slaughtering our native wildlife," he said. "I think it’s atrocious and really underscores the careless nature of Wildlife Services."

The USDA uses a 7-mile radius to Kennedy for removing the birds in an effort to prevent bird strikes. The USDA can remove birds regardless of their distance to an airport, but the standard is usually 5 miles, a spokeswoman for the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said. The guidelines can vary at each airport, and wildlife can be removed for any reason, including concerns about risk to safety, health, property damage, or contamination.

Di Leonardo and other advocates say removing them to be euthanized is not only inhumane, but also, ineffective. 

"Geese see an empty pond [and] will fly in and have more babies," he said.

Nassau County officials had tried to manage the population in years past, with techniques such as egg-addling, where oil is applied to eggs to prevent them from hatching. The county said ultimately it was time-consuming and ineffective.

Alberta Bonner, 70, a retired paralegal whose backyard fence separates her property from the park, said she was disturbed that 154 geese were removed in 2016. She said she had trouble confirming that and, in an interview Tuesday, said she felt "validated" after the agency acknowledged the removal to Newsday.

"Nobody could tell me anything," she recalled of her outreach in 2016.

"They may fly from pond to pond but they don’t go far," she said.

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