Canada geese are an iconic part of the American landscape, so much so that many of us take for granted that until relatively recently their population was in sharp decline. Native Americans and Canada geese lived together harmoniously for thousands of years, but egg harvesting, overhunting, and the destruction of wetland habitats by European colonists led to shrinking flocks and by the early 1900s, Canada geese were disappearing along with many other species of wildlife.
Efforts to preserve Canada geese resulted in the establishment of the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act. This act offered some protection from hunters and harvesters, and Canada geese populations also benefited from the creation of protective refuges and changes in landscape—particularly, the creation of large, open grassy areas like parks and fields.
Despite nearly losing these magnificent birds in the United States, we have not learned our lesson. Every year, unwanted geese are rounded up and slaughtered, including mothers and babies, during molting season—when the birds lose their flight feathers and are most helpless. Trappers set up portable pens, bait the geese, and herd the defenseless animals inside. Geese are then grabbed by the legs or wings and thrown into crates before being gassed or slaughtered. Not only is this management tactic cruel, but it is ineffective as new flocks quickly settle in when they fly over an unoccupied lake.
On Wednesday, May 11, 2022, a resident of luxury apartment complex Victorian Gardens in Holtsville NY videotaped one such massacre. Two men corralled mother geese and their babies before grabbing the babies by their wings and hauling them away. When the resident questioned the abductors, they allegedly laughed and called her vile names before driving off with the goslings, leaving frantic mothers and fathers behind. Authorities tell us the babies were killed using lethal gas.
Canada geese are phenomenal parents and share strong family bonds. They bond for life and mourn for an extended period when one passes away. If the goose who passed had babies, the other parent will take over duties for both. Aunts help care for babies and even strange geese will adopt orphaned babies who have no familial connections at all. Abducting and killing their babies is as cruel and heartbreaking to them as it would be to us.
My organization Humane Long Island, previously known as LION, has stopped these roundups in North Hempstead, Islip, Ronkonkoma, and more, and with your help we are confident we can save geese in Holtsville as well. Please join us by e-mailing [email protected] to urge the company to stop killing geese immediately and urge it to commit to only humane and nonlethal management of Canada geese and their babies at all of their properties. Then make an Anuvrata—or small vow—to practice Ahimsa—or nonviolence — and Asteya—or non-stealing—when it comes to all encounters with wildlife. They have as much a right to live as you or I.
John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].