Gateway National Recreation Area

Gateway National Recreation Area

Geese behind plane's NY river landing still around

July 1, 2010, 1:12 pm

Should USDA Wildlife Services be able to euthanize Canada geese at Jamacia Bay Wildlife Refuge--near JFK Airport--to help prevent run-ins between airplanes and flocks of geese?

An interesting debate has devloped. Here's a snippet, via the Associated Press:

A year and a half after Canada geese forced an airliner to splash down in the Hudson River, officials are rounding them up in almost every part of the city — but flocks are still free to take off around John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The wild birds were at the center of a government vs. government battle on Tuesday.

A National Park Service official told The Associated Press that, for now, his agency won't touch the hundreds of birds living in a refuge near Kennedy airport's runways.

"Our mission is to protect and preserve wildlife — that's a law — and it isn't a given that the removal of the geese is necessary to protect the flying public," said Dave Avrin, the official at the Park Service's Gateway National Recreation Area, which includes the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

Officials of other federal and local agencies want the Park Service to limit the goose population in the only U.S. wildlife refuge under its jurisdiction, but these efforts have failed.

"We can only go onto properties where we have permission," said Carol Bannerman, spokeswoman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services, which this month renewed measures to cull New York flocks after last year's near-disaster.

On Jan. 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 took off from LaGuardia Airport, a dozen miles north of Kennedy in Queens. The Charlotte, N.C.-bound plane, carrying 155 people, struck a flock of geese, which entered its engines and killed their power. Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger glided into the river rather than risk crashing in a densely populated area trying to reach an airport.

The passengers and crew members were rescued from the floating plane, and their pilot became an instant hero, whose daring water landing was dubbed "Miracle on the Hudson."

Before Flight 1549, 78 Canada goose strikes with aircraft were reported in New York from 1999 to 2008, according to Federal Aviation Administration figures.

Almost 1,200 such collisions across the country from 1990 to 2008 caused millions of dollars in damage to civil aircraft, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said. In that time, 11 people died as a result of aircraft collisions with birds, but not necessarily geese, the FAA said. An Air Force surveillance plane struck Canada geese after taking off from a base in Alaska in 1995, killing all 24 people aboard.

Read more here.