Cranking out morality faster than crap through a goose!

Because they face no natural predators and are still protected by the 1916 Migratory Bird Act, so called "Canada geese" are seriously overpopulated in many areas, including the Philadelphia area.

Philadelphia International Airport's proximity to the Delaware River makes it attractive to geese. Airport spokesperson Mark Pesche says that can cause trouble for planes during takeoff and landing.

"When you have a fully loaded 747 rolling down a runway, and the aircraft ingests a bird, it could cause an aircraft disaster," says Pesche. He adds any sort of wildlife on the runway can be extremely dangerous.

Scott Johnston is with the Fish and Wildlife Service's migratory bird division. He says problems arise because of goose overpopulation. When protection measures were put into effect for Canada Geese nearly 90 years ago, most of the birds were migratory. Problems arise at areas like airports because too many Canada Geese have made states like Pennsylvania their long-term home.

"They can denude grassy areas including parks, pastures, golf courses, lawns," says Johnston. "In addition, believe it or not, excessive droppings are also a health concern, and they've contributed to the closing of public beaches in several states."

He says the agency's new rules would remove an obstacle to effective goose management.

"It required a federal permit to be able to control any of these geese," says Johnston. And that can be a relatively time consuming process. So what we're trying to do is provide the states a little bit more individual control."

Johnston says one method of population control involves extending hunting seasons. But there are other ways to reduce, or at least relocate geese.

Two years ago, the Philadelphia Water Department managed to move a flock whose droppings had been polluting a nearby drinking water intake. Sourcewater protection manager Christopher Crocket says the trick is to make the geese feel less comfortable.

When geese collide with airplanes, it isn't a case of size prevailing -- like a dinky subcompact hitting an 18-wheeler. Here's a typical example of what Canada geese do in Philadelphia's airspace:
Date: 23 August 2000
Aircraft: B-747
Airport: Philadelphia Intl. (PA)
Phase of Flight: Take off
Effect on Flight: Aborted take off
Damage: Engine, wing
Wildlife Species: Canada geese
Comments from Report: The aircraft flew through a flock of about 30 Canada geese and ingested 1 or 2 in the #1 engine. The high-speed aborted take off resulted in 9 flat tires. The aircraft was towed to the ramp. Time out of service was 72 hours. Engine was a total loss. Cost was $3 million.
Well, at least no one was killed. No one is killed by goose droppings either. Yeah, I suppose they'll foul the pools and golf courses, and children will pick up the turds and eat them, but that's part of life.

They're a nuisance.

So what I want to know is why the taxpayers are shelling out large sums of money to do stuff like this:

Treatment: A warm bath is only part of the attention the birds get.

By Sandy Bauers

Inquirer Staff Writer

In a darkened corridor filled with tubs of 104-degree water, two volunteers held tight to a sudsy Canada goose, while Perry Lee Prouty grasped its neck and dabbed inside its mouth with a cotton swab.

The swab came out black. So she dabbed again, frowning with concentration.

Dressed in rubber boots and gloves, disposable coveralls, waterproof aprons, and goggles, the three continued in silence - talking would stress the bird still further.

Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research in Newark, Del., is where the luckier victims of Friday's oil spill on the Delaware have come - the ones that are still alive and have been caught.

Anywhere from 500 to 1,000 birds may have been oiled, and most have little chance of survival, authorities said.

As of yesterday evening, 45 birds and one turtle were under the care of the organization's 40 staffers and volunteers. Five other birds at Tri-State had died.

Picked up at or near the site of the oil spill, they were taken first to a staging area at the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum, near Philadelphia International Airport.

There, workers placed the dead birds in boxes and tagged them as evidence. The live ones were also boxed, then driven to Tri-State, a private, nonprofit wildlife rehab organization that responds to spills worldwide.

In fact, when staff veterinarian Erica Miller first heard about the Delaware spill, it was Saturday morning and she was in Newfoundland, working to save murres, penguinlike birds, that had been oiled in a spill at an offshore drilling rig.

At first, she thought the spill on the Delaware was a bad joke. Then her heart sank.

All afternoon, her mind was racing. How soon could she get there? Was there enough equipment? Tri-State had already used so much in Newfoundland and, just a week before, near Savannah, Ga. A ship bound for Philadelphia, oddly enough, had leaked.

The largest number of birds at Tri-State, 22, are Canada geese; 14 are mallards. The others include gulls, a coot, a northern gannet, and a swan.

All "are heavily oiled," Tri-State's executive director, Chris Motoyoshi, said yesterday. "This is thick, gunky oil. It is going to be a long and difficult process to rehabilitate them."

I do not countenance animal cruelty, and I support efforts to prevent oil spills like the one last week.

But cleaning up Canada geese? How much does this cost? Here's a web site which claims it is expensive, but won't say how much:

Q. How much does it cost to rehabilitate oiled birds?

A. The cost for wildlife rehabilitation will differ from spill to spill. For example the cost per bird during the "Exxon Valdez" oil spill was extremely high due to the costs per day for the rescue vessels and the extended period of time we spent in Alaska. The modification of facilities on each and every spill adds to cost as well. There is really no average amount.

What the hell does that mean? Don't they care?

Is this a moral crusade or is there utilitarian value in saving Canada geese?

According to USA Today, at the time of the Exxon Valdez spill, the cleanup and rehabilitation cost was $10,000 per bird. That was 1989.

I'm afraid to ask who pays. And I'm afraid to come across as a hard-nosed utilitarian, but considering the problems caused by Canada geese (the recent oil spill was not far from the Philadelphia airport, by the way), I can't see shelling out thousands of dollars per bird. Bald eagles are one thing, but this is ridiculous.

There's also a scolding tone to the whole business, and when I read through these articles and see the pictures of the birds, I get the distinct impression that someone is trying to manipulate me, to treat me as a small child.

"Mommy, why did the bad men spill oil on the birdies?"

I'd be willing to bet that similar questions are being asked daily, in hundreds of homes around here. The way the papers cover these things, you'd think there was a religious war going on. Good versus evil?


The rate such "moral lessons" are cranked out by the MSM approaches the rate of goose defecation:

Bunnell said geese hop from neighborhood to neighborhood to rest on retention ponds and graze on grass.

"They eat about 4 pounds of turf a day," Bunnell said. "And they give you back 2 pounds."

He added that geese defecate every seven minutes.

Every seven minutes?

That's quicker than you can start a morality, er, movement.

UPDATE: Link to this Philadelphia Inquirer article added.

AND MORE: Has anyone ever asked whether geese like this?


Or does the panic-stricken animal know its life is to be saved by the loving workers?

Soap-based "tough love" used to be applied to humans, who at least were supposed to have known it was "good for them."

Which is why I spoke of "crap" through a goose . . .

posted by Eric on 12.01.04 at 12:21 PM


Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Cranking out morality faster than crap through a goose!:

» One more reason to hate geese from SayUncle
I still hate the damn things. As a property owner, I find them vile. A good sized flock can turn acres of grass into a pile of turds in a few days. They're loud, obnoxious, stupid, and generally unpleasant. They are also protected by some arbitrary... [Read More]
Tracked on December 1, 2004 1:23 PM


I suspect that few are aware of the high cost of bird recovery, and little consideration is given the agony the birds go through. A more humane process would be to kill any bird that would not recover on its own, then if it was scarce require the spiller to breed replacement birds.

Walter E. Wallis   ·  December 1, 2004 4:03 PM

I agree.

But you are being rational!

I think the purpose here is to impart a moral lesson. (A point mostly lost on busy adults.)

Eric Scheie   ·  December 1, 2004 4:46 PM

They had a major problem with domesticated Canada geese in Seattle a few years back, so they decided to have a mass killing of the birds to bring the population down. Of course, they had to argue about humane ways of killing, and they decided it would be a bad idea to dispose of the birds by, say, certifying the meat and giving the passing grade stuff to soup kitchens, but just throwing it away would be wrong...

I don't know how that ended up. Personally, I would have fenced off the parks that had problems, allowed a few hunting permits per, and made those darned birds migratory again.

B. Durbin   ·  December 1, 2004 7:10 PM

Im a North Philly Burb resident and the whole Canadian Goose thing is completely out of control here. They dont even bother to leave anymore. The oil spill here went from the northern most point of Philly down past the airport. That area of the river has got to be the most polluted sludge pit south of the Hudson. With the old navy yard, the airport and the score of refineries and 200 year old sewer pipes, how can you tell what came from the tanker and what is a continuing problem ... argh, now I have heartburn. You cant even eat the damn birds because they are so toxic to begin with. Now that would really give me heartburn.

mdmhvonpa   ·  December 1, 2004 11:13 PM

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