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May/June 2001 issue (#51)


Mutant Colonialism

Groups Tell Starbucks: Serve Safe Food, Pay Farmers Well

Second Sight: Chad Morey finds his way in the world

Public Health Pretense

Wind-Powered Future

City to Add Arsenic to Water Supply

Fond and Foul Memories

Gary Locke, Republican

Taking Back Our Lives

Human Fodder

The Metamorphosis

Oregon Challenges Ballot Access Ruling

Protesters to be Cooked

Right-Wing Would Abort Contraception for Women

A Working Stiff's Tax Proposal


Reader Mail


Media Beat

Nature Doc

Rad Videos

Reel Underground

Public Health Pretense

Poop is the real reason for the unjustifiable killing of geese

opinion by Seven Dunsmore

At some time during June, scores of government employees will slink stealthily into their trucks and begin the bloody ritual of spring. They will drive to the parks and greenways around Washington state, seize thousands of Canada Geese, drive them to an undisclosed location and choke, suffocate and gas them to death. They attack the birds during their molting season when the geese cannot fly and get away.

This year the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife has announced that they will seize 4,200 geese. Despite the fact that several animal rights groups have intervened with alternative ideas, the state has decided (with the blessing of city and county officials around the state) to kill the geese because they defecate, and their droppings are unsightly to a vocal minority.

The Canada Goose is a federally-protected species, but in the past the state has said the goose poop causes a health hazard. Originally the US Department of Agriculture received permits to destroy geese under a strict provision within federal law, which allows protected species to be seized and destroyed if they are shown to be an actual threat to public health. Now, however, under the purview of the USDA, Washington state Fish and Wildlife issues the kill quotas in response to “requests and damage reports from landowners” according to Roger Woodruff, assistant state director for the agency’s Wildlife Services division. The City of Seattle, under the guidance of Donald Harris (Seattle Parks Interlocal Task Force) has also requested the roundups for city parks.

The feces has never been documented to spread disease.

According to the website of the Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese:

“Complaints about geese can be reduced to concerns about the droppings they deposit where they congregate, and to a lesser extent, the presence of feathers during their annual molt. Although much has been said to make the issue of suburban geese into a serious “problem”, most concerns beyond simple aesthetics and minor inconveniences are not legitimate....

The basis of the argument is that Canada geese must be killed because goose droppings contain human pathogens (disease-causing bacteria). As has been pointed out in the literature by Weiner, et al. (Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Aug. 1979, p. 258), and at a public presentation in Rockland County, New York (Sept. 22, 1993), by Dr. Milton Friend, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Waterfowl Infectious Disease Specialist, Canada geese are not carriers of microorganisms (pathogens) that significantly threaten public health.

In fact, in New York, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) attempted to strengthen their campaign against geese by testing goose droppings for human pathogens.... The outcome of their study was never publicized because they were unable to prove their point.

The Coalition has contacted the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and various state health departments on this matter and these sources have indicated that no human illnesses have been linked to the presence of Canada geese in the suburban setting.”

Under a ruling reinforced last year by US District Judge Marsha Pechman, the state intends to continue the killing this year, even though it is in direct violation of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, particularly if it is not being done to protect public health but rather to beautify the parks and the lawns of private citizens. This act makes it “unlawful to pursue, hunt, kill, capture, possess, buy, sell, purchase, or barter any migratory bird, including the feathers or other parts, nests, eggs, or migratory bird products.”

So what is to be done? For those of us who care about the ethics, the cruelty and even the constitutionality of this decision, it is crucial to act immediately.

NARN, the Humane Society and PAWS, among others, have tried to appeal this practice in the courts and have tried to address it in public meetings, to no avail.

The director of Fish and Wildlife, Dr. Jeffrey P. Koenings, writes on the state website: “In a world where the human population is expanding and consuming more land for homes and businesses that was once wildlife habitat, it is important that someone look after the interests of fish and wildlife. That’s why we’re here: to serve as advocates of fish and wildlife species.... The agency’s mission is to provide sound stewardship of fish and wildlife. The health and well-being of fish and wildlife is important not only to the species themselves, but to humans as well....”

The Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of the Canada Geese asserts that this event is really being promoted by people who work behind the scenes in these public arenas, promoting the interests of parks officials and private landowners who are concerned with the beautification of their lawns at the expense of life itself. This is in direct opposition to the stated concerns of the Fish and Wildlife, but seven of the nine members of that state commission list bloodsports as their recreation of choice.

There isn’t much time.

The commission can be reached at: Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Main Office, Natural Resources Building, 1111 Washington St. SE Olympia, WA 98501, email commission@dfw.wa.gov, phone 360-902-2267.u

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