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The Goose Watch is (Still) on Duty

Despite an announcement that the city will not come for Prospect Park's Canada geese this year, the Goose Watch is still on call.

By 6:30 a.m. last Thursday, David Karopkin and his gaggle of geese lovers had already been at Prospect Park for at least an hour, diligently patrolling the lakeside for signs of Canada geese, taking stock of their numbers and health.

It is an early morning ritual that has become regular for Karopkin and a handful of other local geese enthusiasts. The federal government may have to come for Prospect Park’s diminutive Canada goose population this year—but isn’t taking any chances.

“We want to trust the USDA, but verify,” said Karopkin, echoing the signature phrase of President Ronald Reagan. “The city should be here protecting the geese, but they aren’t. So that job falls to us.”

Initially, if the United States Department of Agriculture had indeed arrived to commit another mass extermination of the park’s geese, Goose Watch had planned to send out a mass text message and phone call to an army of supporters, who would then descend noisily upon the park in hopes of scaring off the geese. Goose Watch had dutiful volunteers stationed around the park throughout the midnight hours when the park was closed—when the USDA would be most likely to strike again.

When the city announced that the USDA would not “cull” geese in Prospect Park this year—but would cull 700 to 800 geese in other parks around the city—most members of the Goose Watch moved on to protect the geese located elsewhere in the city, like Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens.

But Karopkin and a band of 10 or so other ragtag geese lovers decided to stay on and protect their home turf, Prospect Park.

“We don’t just want to stand there,” said Karopkin, a petite paralegal. “We want to make sure that these geese are safe in the hours when no one else is watching. I really couldn’t live with being fast asleep while something happens to these geese.”

“It’s our park, we should be aware of what’s going on with the wildlife in it,” added Tia Foster, 27. “We don’t want out park turned into a slaughterhouse.”

Beginning as early as 4 or 5 a.m. each morning, one or more members of Goose Watch head to the park to take stock of the geese population. They count the geese (their last count was 34) and talk to other early morning park goers about the importance of keeping them safe, and particularly the importance of not feeding them.

They are there almost every morning, but when someone can’t make it, a member of the Goose Watch is sure to stop by in the afternoon and check in on the geese. They see it as their bleary-eyed duty, some getting up at the crack of dawn to “patrol” before work, others, like Foster, stopping by to check in on the geese after a late night working as a bartender.

The Goose Watch hopes to prevent at all costs the repetition of last summer’s middle of the night goose eradication, in which the United States Department of Agriculture rounded up and gassed nearly 400 park geese. But they also hope to protect the geese from less might enemies, like park goers who might consider eating them for dinner.

“I was here walking my dog one morning, and I actually heard one woman say to her husband, ‘I’m going to bag one of these for dinner,’” said Rina Deych, 55, a registered nurse.

Karopkin and company plan to keep watch over the geese at least until they finish molting—the process during which geese shed their feathers and grow new ones, rendering them unable to fly and particularly vulnerable to attack.

“They made a mistake coming to this park last year, they woke a sleeping giant,” said Karopkin. “We’re not satisfied just letting this happen.”

Karopkin and Deych said that they each log between five and 10 hours a week in the park, watching over the geese. Karopkin has a map with locations pinpointed where he is most likely to catch a glimpse of his feathered friends.

 “We understand the limitations of what we can really do. We’re aware that we won’t be able to stop them if they USDA did come,” said Karopkin. “We can’t be everywhere, but we can be here. We want to get this situation noticed, and get other people out in their parks. ”

He added: “What we’re really building is a coalition of the appalled.”

ASteinberg July 05, 2011 at 01:31 AM
Let's continue your education, Tom - you desperately need it. So you don't think there's anything wrong with the USDA rounding up harmless families of geese, including weeks-old babies, and gassing them to death and that this is a modern way of trimming the herd. Then you must also think clubbing new-born seals is a fun day out for the family. I suppose you never heard of addling the eggs so that the embryo doesn't form, and landscape modification to make the area less appealing for geese and use of border collies to prevent them from settling - all far more successful and effective methods of managing goose populations without killing them and a far better value for your tax dollars. You DID know that YOU are paying for the USDA killing squads, didn't you, and you are aware that this is strictly a money-making tactic for the government that is blatantly unsuccessful because not only do new geese come back to take the place of the killed ones, but often the problem is worse, because they aren't doing anything to change the enviromnent, In fact, the government created the problem in the first place by restocking the flocks (after hunters had killed off geese to virtual extinction) and then forgetting about the geese until so-called populations grew. But these are the people you trust to solve the problem now, hmmmm?
ASteinberg July 05, 2011 at 01:38 AM
Now let's address feeding the meat to the homeless. Didja ever wonder why this meat isn't ending up in Gristedes but is being fobbed off on the homeless and poor? BECAUSE NO ONE WANTS IT. And why is that? Because it's loaded with pesticides, mercury and other toxins. That's a GREAt dish to serve to a group of people whose health is already in the toilet. However, guess what> Not only will the geese probably die in this heat during the several hours it'll take to truck them crammed in small crates to PA, but they will NEVER pass the inspection that costs, oh, around $10-$12 per pound. In most places that have made these generous-sounding pronouncements about feeding the poor with birds that were doing nothing wrong and shouldn't have beenkilled in the first place, you'll never read about the true follow up which is, THEY WILL END UP IN LANDFILLS ANYWAY. You've been duped again, buddy - by your USDA and DEP that are laughing all the way to the bank as they soak you for your tax dollars.
ASteinberg July 05, 2011 at 01:45 AM
Just in passing, let's mention bird=airplane strikes. The Wildlife Strikes Database states that “approximately .013 percent of all take offs and landings struck wildlife. The government claims that only one in five (20 percent) are reported. Yet, assuming this is accurate, even if 100 percent of all strikes were reported, this would still mean that less than .068 percent of all aircraft operations struck wildlife. And geese account for the smallest percentage of that miniscule number . In addition, according to statistics, 45 % of all fatal accidents are due to pilot error. Furthermore, the Miracle on the Hudson plane was extensively written up in aviation journals as having significant mechanical failures, including on the flight just prior to ditching oin the river. That plane should never have been flying and geese were not the real problem there. Geese frankly worry me less than mechanical falire, pilot error and 30-year old planes. Only a true moron would think that killing birds is the solution to flight safety when it is clearly a technology issue. And Tom, Mr. Genuis, I know I'm going to be sorry I asked - or else I'll be peeing myself laughing at your answer, but please tell me what the interjection of politics has to do with a non-political issue? Please - try to learn at least SOMETHING about your topic before you embarrass yourself by your ignorance wiriting about something you clearly know nothing whatsoever about.
Neil Zwillinger July 05, 2011 at 02:38 PM
we have air traffic controllers failing asleep, or allowing a friend to play with the shiny buttons, airplanes that are way too old to be allowed to fly, and more alcoholic and drug addicted pilots than anyone will admit and we're trying to kill a couple of geese? does this make sense to anyone?
david July 10, 2011 at 03:25 PM
Tom, you are making some pretty bold statements, which I doubt you can defend, although I would be interested in hearing what you have to say- 1) What science and evidence determines that Canada Geese are not native to NYC? 2) Who determines that there are "too many" geese, and how? 3) What science backs up the claim that the geese "ruin it for human safety", and is the threat sufficient to merit death for the birds? 4) in response to "there is nothing wrong with what the USDA is doing", have you seen the pictures of the round ups from Delafield WI which were photographed by a citizen who watched as geese were rounded up? http://on.fb.me/k8LQdu 5) geese living in nyc parks consume all kinds of toxins, pestisides is used on the grass, and there are coals and garbage everywhere which of course contaminates the geese and which make them dangerous to eat. no, liberal tendencies will not be pleased that hungry individuals who in most cases will not be able to address resulting medical concerns. it doesnt matter who eats poison, or where it takes place. would you eat the goose meat knowing it could make you sick? why should it be foisted on the "hungry" when there is so much heathier options. Do you know how much good food restaurants and supermarkets throw out every day?

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