On the geese

Back in Brooklyn and controversy: uproar over the gassing of 290 Canada geese in Prospect Park.

I believe in a personal, emotional connection to wildness; I think this is profoundly important, but, like most things emotional, it can be carried too far. Into the realm of obsession, of people who think they are the caretakers of wild animals. Or that wild animals are their “pets” – yes, someone on the Prospect Park Facebook page said that the geese were the pets of children who didn’t have dogs or cats at home. This is Grizzly Man territory, very much the wrong way to relate to nature. Every feeder of garbage bread to waterfowl is part of the problem. Equally, the celebrants of the destruction, and there are plenty of them (the internet doth bring out the best in peeps, doesn’t it?) show their deformed perspective.

I think it is important to remember that the geese are an introduced, invasive species. They out-compete native species and transform habitat to their own ends, narrowing the range of what else can thrive in the environment, limiting biodiversity. Like house sparrows and starlings, also introduced species, Canada gees thrive in the human context — in this case, our lawns, golf courses, and parks. They will be back in the park very soon, filling the niche we’ve made for them. This is bad news for other species, but unfortunately less glamorous, less cute, less tame species haven’t captured the hearts of the children. Prospect Park is home (permanently and temporarily) to about two hundred species of birds, something lost in this controversy.

The radical human transformation of the wild means that we sometimes have to make hard, perhaps impossible, decisions about managing wildness, because frankly, and tragically, all wildness is now at the mercy of humanity. Prospect Park is only a microcosm of the world we have made. Hysteria, misinformation, and delusions don’t help.

2 Responses to “On the geese”

  1. 1 Mark Wilkinson July 14, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I’ve enjoyed all your recent posts Matthew and look forward to seeing more pictures from your fabulous trip to Iceland, a country I’ve only visited once. As this happened to be in January on business I saw very little, apart from an amazing sunset (shortly after lunch!).
    Your comments above on the geese are spot on. Though I haven’t followed the local story in depth I can imagine the issue and why drastic steps have had to be made. As you say, the birds will return.
    There are similarities with the pigeons in London. Euthanased at night but a tourist attraction for tourists by day. My hope is that London’s peregrine’s continue to increase in numbers as there are plenty of pigeons make a living from.

    Best wishes


    • 2 mthew July 14, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      Thanks, Mark, your comments are much appreciated. We had the opposite effect with the sun in Iceland: it was only down for about four hours and it never really got dark at all.

      Readers of this blog should visit Mark’s delightful blog, which is also listed on my links, where you can wish him a happy one year anniversary in blogging about the wilds around him in Hertfordshire, UK.

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