January - May
In January, the New York City Bar Association issued a report of policy recommendations to mayoral candidates and took the position that the next mayor of New York City should end the contract between the City of New York and USDA Wildlife Services and "instead adopt non-lethal, long-term strategies for preventing collisions between aircraft and birds."
As news alerts came in about proposed slaughters in Scarsdale, Mamaroneck, and North Hempstead, NY, we worked with local activists and groups such as Westchester4Geese and LION - Long Island Organizng for Nature, who successfully stopped these towns from contracting with USDA to kill geese.
June - July
In June we held a press conference and rally announcing support from aviation expert Ken Paskar, who declared that killing geese is not a solution to air safety problems. We were also joined by leaders in the animal protection community who spoke about USDA Wildlife Services' record of cruel and indiscriminate killing, the importance of valuing and co-existing with wildlife, and succeeding through organizing, alliance building, and effective communication.
For the third summer, we attempted to photograph the roundups, and this year we succeeded. Dozens of GooseWatch volunteers fanned out to parks across the city to stand guard every morning for over six weeks while the geese couldn't fly and raised their young. In the event USDA agents arrived, we were ready and waiting with a camera to document the roundups and a cell phone to disseminate an emergency text alert and phone call to nearly 500 people across the city we recruited to respond to an alert.
Our system worked! Witnesses called in to report USDA sightings, we sent out emergency alerts, and because of these efforts, the public now has photos from three separate roundups this summer in NYC parks. Incredibly, Jeffrey Kramer was on patrol at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge when he reported that the USDA was on the scene rounding up geese. For the first time ever, we successfully video-recorded the roundup of geese at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge by USDA.
For the first time ever, GooseWatch NYC obtained video recordings of the roundup of Canada geese in New York City. Our videos were published on the New York Times website, as well as the New York Observer, and over a dozen other major media outlets. The New York Daily News published an op-ed by Mr. Kramer, aptly titled "New York's horror: Silence of the geese." Finally, there could be no dispute that the killing of geese is far from humane and certainly not euthanasia - geese thumped against the crates on the back of USDA trucks on a hot summer day, seperated from their new born chirping babies, on their way to die.
August - September
After the roundups ended, we agreed that this year's election cycle was too importan to sit out. We wanted to help We also decided telect animal friendly candidates to the City Council would would stand up for New York City's geese. We decided to support Yetta Kurland, Helen Rosenthal, and Carlos Menchaca, who expressed strong support for our efforts, and the need to protect urban wildlife, becoming our first endorsements ever. GooseWatch members actively campaigned for these candidates, and for seven weeks more than two dozen volunteers phonebanked and knocked doors. In September, Helen Rosenthal and Carlos Menchaca were elected as new members of the City Council, and two long time supporters were elected to higher office: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Public Advocate Letitia James.
We also decided to join NYCLASS in their campaign to Defeat Christine Quinn. We understood that as Speaker of the City Council, Quinn supported Mayor Bloomberg's goose removal policy, and in general was unsupportive of many needed reforms for how the city addresses animal issues. We believed that if she had been elected, we could expect the killing of the geese would be guaranteed to continue. While no other candidate pledged unequivocally to end the killing, most others expressed support for considering alternatives.
In September, Bill de Blasio succeeded in his bid to become the Democratc nominee for the next Mayor of New York City, and was officially elected Mayor in November. This marked the first time that a candidate who ran on a platform that specifically included animal reform issues on the agenda has been elected to Mayor of New York City. At a NYCLASS awards ceremony celebration in December, Mayor-elect de Blasio accepted an award from the animal advocacy organization, declaring that he was proud to be a part of the animal rights movement.
In August, in the midst of our political activism, we responded to the USDA roundup and slaughter of Staten Island's wild turkey population. Many residents in the community were outraged and saddened that the turkeys had been slaughtered, local leaders for an urgent rally to defend the remaining turkeys.
October - December
The New York State DEC stated that the turkeys could not be relocated into the wild because they were "hybrid" birds, asserted that attempts to control the population humanely failed, and that they could not find any sanctuaries to take the birds. However, the community was left out of the decision making process, and non-lethal alternatives to resolving the concerns people raised about the turkeys were not given an opportunity to work. GooseWatch NYC partnered with Brian Shapiro, New York State Director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and in a short time were able to convince the DEC to allow relocation of 28 turkeys from Staten Island to Catskill Animal Sanctuary, where they have found a safe and comfortable permament home.
Despite this, the USDA returned to South Beach Psychiatric Center in October to slaughter another two to three dozen turkeys, however, this time we received advanced warning, and Jeffrey Kramer again was able to document a USDA roundup, and actually managed to follow the agents to the turkeys' final destination, a slaughterhouse in upstate New York. We also obtained the contract from USDA Wildlife Services which revealed that the cost to kill these 120 turkeys was approximately $16,000, a cruel waste of taxpayer money and life. Meanwhile, turkeys continue to roam Staten Island, and we are continuing to seek a humane resolution to this issue. The killing of Staten Island's turkeys reminds us that USDA Wildlife Services is not only in the business of killing geese, but turkeys, and dozens of other species and thousands of individual animals deemed a nuisance or hazard.
In December, news broke that 3 snowy owls had been shot and killed by the Port Authority of NY/NJ after an unexpected influx of the birds into the region, resulting in a number of "bird strikes" with airplanes. The public was outraged by the spreading news - a petition on Change.org gathered more than 11,000 signatures, the Audubon Society and other local environmental groups condemned the kill-first approach to mitigating the risk to aviation safety, and by that same evening the Port Authority had issued a statement that they would instead trap and release methods used by Logan Airport. Friends of Animals has filed suit against USDA and Fish and Wildlife Service in response to the killings.
As one Slate Magazine blogger wrote, "It was certainly a win for the beautiful owls, but I couldn’t help but think of another feathered friend: Canada geese." In November, National Geographic published a groundbreaking article about the failure of killing birds as an long term response to the threat wildlife may pose to aviation safety, while more effective radar technology and other solutions have yet to be implemented in New York City airports. In response to the snowy owl killings, Jane Velez-Mitchell asked, "If they can trap and release the snowy owls, can't they do something more humane for the geese and the other birds?" When there's a will, there's a way.