FAQs: Resident Canada Geese at Gateway

In the shadow of John F. Kennedy Airport, employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services gather resident Canada geese as part of the cull in July 2012.
In the shadow of John F. Kennedy Airport, employees of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services gather resident Canada geese as part of the cull in July 2012.



How many geese were culled at Gateway National Recreation Area this year?

Wildlife Services, part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), gathered a total of 751 resident Canada geese at Gateway over two days, mostly in the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. This reduced the resident Canada geese population by about half in Jamaica Bay, from an estimated 1,500 before the cull, or 3% of the 20,000 to 25,000 Canada geese in New York City, or less than 1% of the total in New York State, estimated at 200,000 and 250,000.


Although Gateway is dedicated to preserving natural resources in Jamaica Bay, including wildlife, public safety will always be our number one concern. Canada geese have been cited as a hazard to the flying public at JFK Airport, which borders Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, due to their size (up to ten pounds). The "Miracle on the Hudson" in 2009 occurred because Canada geese were ingested by jet engines. Also, resident Canada geese are currently an overabundant native species which damages salt marshes that Gateway, along with other agencies, is restoring in Jamaica Bay. Therefore, an overabundance of resident Canada geese threatens both the flying public and the salt marsh habitat of Jamaica Bay.


The cull was as humane as possible. Geese were herded into pen areas, crated and taken to a food processor in New York State. They were euthanized and their meat will be distributed to food pantries in New York State.

Why now?

Geese molt from mid-June through mid-July. Molting renders them flightless and easy to corral. Once molting season ends, a roundup will not be possible.

Why "resident" Canada geese?

Only resident Canada geese were locally present during the molt. All other geese have migrated to the Arctic by molting season.

Will this eliminate Canada geese from Jamaica Bay?

No. The Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS)-approved this summer after five years of development to reduce bird hazards near JFK Airport-specifically states that the goose population will NOT be entirely eliminated. Several hundred will survive in Jamaica Bay even if a future cull takes place.

Has Gateway culled geese in the past?

Yes. Gateway authorized a round-up of 100 Canada Geese in 2010, and 92 Canada Geese in 2011 and 40 geese in June 2012, on the landfills along the north shore of Jamaica Bay. This is the first year when a cull has taken place at Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.

How can Gateway cull geese when it is a wildlife reserve?

Gateway protects the entire habitat of Jamaica Bay. Over 325 species of birds alone fly through here, with more species of mammals, marine life and plant life, both on land and offshore. An overabundant native species upsets the balance of this habitat and destroys resources such as salt marshes. In salt marshes, which Gateway has helped restore with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and other agencies, geese ripped out the roots of grasses, denuding newly planted areas and eroding salt marshes.

Are geese a part of the historic bird populations at the Refuge?

Yes and no. Hunting basically wiped out the east coast Canada geese populations around 1900, so there was virtually no Canada goose population at the Refuge when it was founded by the city in the 1950s. Today's geese were introduced over the years by state fish and game agencies in other locations. The overabundance of resident geese at the Refuge today is, in effect, a sign of how successful the Refuge has been as a protective environment of bird life in New York. Resident Canada geese are now an environmental problem, even to other wildlife and habitats. The abundance of mowed lawns also provides more food for the geese year-round.

Why hasn't a cull of this size happened before?

Decisions to make culls of native species are not taken lightly. They must be based on rigorous science and plenty of consideration for alternatives. This required the completion of a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS). The last EIS on this issue was completed in 1994. Situations have changed, so the EIS needed to be updated. That usually takes years, as it did this time. Good science and good policy take time.

Did the public have any voice in the development of the SEIS?

Yes. There were two comment periods: one in early 2011 and the other ending in mid-June of this year. The latter comment period was reported by major media outlets in the New York area and was noted on our park webpage.

Who decided to hold the cull in Jamaica Bay?

The secretaries of two U.S. departments, Interior and Agriculture, along with the Director of the National Park Service, approved the cull.

Are there other, nonlethal ways to control Canada geese populations?

Yes. Unfortunately, they work slowly and are extremely labor intensive. Addling eggs will slow the growth of the population but will not effectively reduce it. Geese can live for up to 20 years, so the cull is necessary if we wish to reduce goose populations now. Egg-and-nest treatment for Canada geese and cormorant can be considered in the future. Additionally, the park will enforce rules against the public feeding of wildlife, including geese, which can artificially increase the presence of geese here.

What will the effect be of this cull?

The cull lessens the threat from resident Canada geese to the flying public. Ecologically, the decrease in resident Canada goose populations will leave more food for other aquatic bird species, particularly Brant geese. This is especially important in winter months where food is scarce. Water quality in Jamaica Bay's freshwater ponds will improve as well.

What will the new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) mean for Gateway?

The national park, including Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge, will continue to protect wildlife habitats and wildlife populations as required by federal law and NPS policies. The park's ongoing management of habitats and bird populations will continue to consider public safety as a high priority. The new SEIS facilitates improved collaboration among government agencies and other land owners to more effectively manage habitats, wildlife populations and human safety.


Sources of data:

Bird Hazard Reduction Program: John F. Kennedy International Airport.

Summary: New York City Canada Goose Removals in 2011, prepared by Ryan Collins and Lee Humberg, wildlife biologists, USDA-APHIS-Wildlife Services

Supplement to the Environmental Impact Statement Gull Hazard Reduction Program: John F. Kennedy International Airport. Final draft May 2012, which can be found at https://www.aphis.usda.gov/regulations/ws/ws_nepa_environmental_documents.shtml

Last updated: February 26, 2015

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