Colts Neck defends decision to gas 284 Canada geese
Published in the Asbury Park Press 7/11/03
By BOB JORDAN
COLTS NECK -- Township health officials yesterday defended their decision to spend $3,500 to kill nearly 300 Canada geese at local ponds last month, although they acknowledged the plan was not publicized ahead of time.
On June 22 and 25, 284 birds were killed with carbon dioxide gas by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Fish and Wildlife Service. Over the past 10 years, the township had used nonlethal methods in attempts to control the geese population, Health Officer Bill McBride said yesterday.
And, McBride said, it's possible the program, which is finished for this year, will be renewed in 2004.
Representatives of animal rights groups criticized municipal officials yesterday for having federal wildlife workers kill the geese.
In addition, several Colts Neck residents said they were unaware of the township's plan.
Tony Costa of Cedar Drive and Chris Lupia of Beaver Dam Road attended the Township Committee meeting on Wednesday, saying they and the majority of other residents had not heard asphyxiation of geese discussed by the governing body in public.
McBride said yesterday the issue was discussed many times at Board of Health meetings but conceded those meetings are rarely attended by the public.
But in a review of the minutes from five Board of Health meetings from December to May, there is no specific mention of killing geese by asphyxiation.
In the December minutes, under the heading of old business, the minutes state, "Mr. McBride told the board that there may be a source for geese control through the federal Bureau of Wildlife Services. This is something that he will pursue in 2003."
Gassing of the fowl is not mentioned in the minutes of subsequent meetings.
McBride said yesterday, "I don't know why the program wasn't publicized more."
The health officer said the birds' droppings represent a nuisance and a potential health problem.
McBride said the township paid the federal agency for workers to herd flocks of the geese into a collection area and then place them in the back of specially equipped pickup trucks for asphyxiation by carbon dioxide.
"We're going to do it on a year-by-year basis to see how it goes," McBride said. "No one likes killing animals. No is out to destroy Canada geese, but the numbers we've experienced have been producing an extraordinary amount of droppings. The stuff you see on the grass is nothing compared to what's on the bottom of the ponds, and that has created health issues."
Animal protectors angry
The killings dismayed representatives of animal rights groups.
Betty Butler, founder of the Rumson office of the national Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese, said she had approached Colts Neck officials three years ago with an offer to implement a nonlethal program at no cost to the municipality.
"Carbon dioxide is very toxic," Butler said. "It's a cruel, horrible death."
Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, based in Darien, Conn., said the destruction of geese will only encourage other geese to move to a newly vacant pond, and the new occupants will be in danger of being killed the following year. She called this "a cycle of myopic violence which Friends of Animals opposes."
Colts Neck's contract with the U.S. Department of Agriculture included a permit for having the birds killed, but a state agency has the authority to block such permits, said Jack Kaskey, spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.
"There have been 33 such permits in New Jersey this year, down from 31 last year," Kaskey said.
Kaskey and Jim Rogers, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, said information about which other Shore towns have permits for lethal control of geese was not available.
Rogers, who said the New Jersey population of Canada geese last year was 96,800, said the program calls for rounding up the birds between mid-June and mid-July because they are molting and cannot fly away from handlers.
Bob Jordan: (732) 308-7751