And Then There Was One: A Single Gosling Left in Park

There is now only one gosling left. Will there soon be none?

Well, it looks like the mystery is solved. According to Prospect Park blogger, "Ditmas Deb," the Prospect Park was spotted on Thursday.  

The picture her daughter took shows that we are down to only one gosling. One.

This is not "natural selection."  There is a reason why the resident geese who lived in our park for many, many years thrived. Strength in numbers.  With so many dogs tearing up and around the park at all hours, gangs of teens throwing rocks and stones and god knows what other random dangers that besiege the wildlife of any city park, it makes sense that groups of twenty or more geese can form a shield to protect their babies.  But what possible chance could one single mated pair actually have?  

As a wild bird rehabilitator, over the years one big "ah-ha" moment was realizing that birds and other wild animals do not simply blend together because they are the same in kind. Birds, raccoons, squirrels, pigeons, starlings – you name it – all have strong social networks. You can't simply throw them together and assume they will behave as a unit.

My guess – and it is a guess – is that this gosling family was the surviving family of an entirely separate flock from the geese who are now spending time at the main area of Prospect Park Lake (by Vanderbilt).  They did not have any connection.  And, it is also possible that because our gosling family was the only geese pair with babies in tow  – while all of the other geese had their eggs made inert – it is possible that there was a situation where not only were the social ties untied, but the remaining geese may have had what can only be called some "jealous" reaction to seeing another pair of geese with chicks.

How natural is that? 

We can never completely know how things go in nature. But the fact that this mated pair had 12 goslings and now there is one is not "natural."  The incredible disruption of the social bonds, the networks that geese thrive in – were all but destroyed by the park's insistence on using "Goosebusters" to terrify and intimidate the geese, as well as last year's horrific slaughter committed by "Wildlife Services" (an Orwellian division of the USDA)  – who came in and dragged off our beautiful families of geese and trapped them in gas chambers set up at JFK airport. These things have contributed to a scattered, disparate, bedraggled and disoriented handful of geese who have been stripped of their truly natural society.

How the Prospect Park Alliance can justify funnelling $35 million into the cancerous industrial skating rink/entertainment extravaganza while the integrity of the park has become so violated is beyond me.  

The so called "kill contract" on our area geese expires at the end of June.  I'm told that JFK Airport has begun preparing gas chambers to snuff out the life of any and all geese they are able to pluck from area parks.  While the Goosewatch may deter the USDA from the bad publicity almost certain by making another showing in a community already up in arms from last year's slaughter, there are plenty of other pockets – places on Randall's Island, the stretches of land nearby Marine park and more – where the USDA can destroy our wild birds.

Calling the Mayor  – 311  – is one way to help.  Let the Mayor know you want the killing to stop. Instead of destroying our wildlife, we should be restoring, re-invigorating and re-inventing our environment. Billions of birds, mammals of every kind have been poisoned and snuffed out by the recent man-made BP oil spill and now the Japan Nuclear disaster.   And still the USDA is on an unrelenting mission to "rid the sky of Canada Geese?"

There is no vision for our future.  What do we want to see?  Golf courses and ice skating rinks, malls, outdoor movie festivals, endless glass, steel and astroturf?  When Jane Jacobs wrote "The Life and Death of An American City," her community was under siege.  The Federal government had plans to build superhighways right through the heart of Greenwich Village.   No one believed she could turn back the bulldozers but somehow, she managed.

In her own words, here is what Jane Jacobs had to say about neighborhood parks:

"You can neither lie to a neighbourhood park, nor reason with it. 'Artist's conceptions' and persuasive renderings can put pictures of life into proposed neighbourhood parks or park malls, and verbal rationalizations can conjure up users who ought to appreciate them, but in real life only diverse surroundings have the practical power of inducing a natural, continuing flow of life and use." 

We have to turn back the bulldozers.

For the facts on the history of the destruction of our wild birds, see this link.

For friends to meet in the nabe who all just want to give our geese some peace, 
visit the Facebook page created by community members who who are already finding ways to t 

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Johanna Clearfield June 05, 2011 at 02:52 AM
Thanks David! They are so precious!!!
Patty A June 05, 2011 at 12:53 PM
This is your best and most thought-provoking column yet, Johanna. Yes, we know that geese normally live in highly structured group orders and extended families. As you point out so astutely, this is in fact how "prey" animals normally survive. But unfortunately, the social structure of the geese at Prospect Park has not only been disrupted, but in fact, annililated. The odds were against this goose family from the very beginning when their eggs were oiled. Now, we are most likely seeing the results of flock disruption and destruction. How do these precious animals even begin to pick up the pieces?
Marion Ambler June 05, 2011 at 01:56 PM
Fantastic blog Johanna. I was especially impressed with your bringing up the effect destroying their society structure has on Canada geese. Awhile ago I read an article by a biologist here about marmots on Vancouver Island. Vancouver Island marmots are an endangered species and this article described how crucial the society structure was to them and how it affected the marmot not to have its normal societal structure. It is very difficult for creatures like this to survive without their normal societal structure. Canada geese are also very emotional birds and have strong emotional attachments to mate and family, so this makes it even more difficult for them. It is very very sad to see what appears to be happening to these innocent birds here. And very sad that a wildlife biologist, who should have some idea of how all this killing and chasing will affect these birds, has instead been hired to kill them and add to their problems. Something is skewed here.
Johanna Clearfield June 08, 2011 at 04:34 AM
Good news!!! There have been a few sitings of other goslings in the park. Possibly another family slipped by the "humane" program to make all goose eggs inert. Wow. More to come....
Johanna Clearfield June 10, 2011 at 09:49 PM
Correction - typo. Originally there were SIX Goslings. Not Twelve. Please note in my original post. Thanks!


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