TRENTON — Federal wildlife officials have begun plucking Canada geese from New Jersey parks, golf courses and areas near airports in a weeks-long roundup that could end in the killing of thousands of birds.
U.S. Department of Agriculture spokeswoman Carol Bannerman confirmed the "capture and removal program" is under way and will last about six weeks. The geese will be molting — or shedding their feathers — during the time and will be unable to fly.
She said local Canada geese will be corralled from 20 locations in nine counties. All are places where the landowner has complained and asked for the birds to be removed.
"We only go to areas where we've been asked to come and do the work," she said.
A similar program is under way in New York City, which plans to trap and gas as many as 2,000 Canada geese over the next few weeks in an attempt to avoid the type of collision that caused an airliner to ditch in the Hudson River in January.
U.S. Airways Flight 1549 had just taken off from LaGuardia Airport when it smacked into a flock and lost both engines. Pilot Chesley Sullenberger became a national hero when he set the plane down safely in the river.
The episode brought attention to the hazard that birds can pose to aircraft. Some 40 public parks within five miles of Kennedy and LaGuardia airports will be swept free of geese.
Bannerman said several of the removal sites in New Jersey are within eight miles of an airport.
The state has 80,000 resident Canada geese, about twice the density that wildlife officials consider manageable.
A single bird excretes about a half-pound of feces daily, Bannerman said, rendering some public parks unusable.
A removal program last year rid the state of fewer than 2,000 birds, she said.
Other population control methods include coating geese eggs with oil, which keeps them from hatching. About 2,000 eggs were treated with oil this spring, she said.
The New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife issued permits for the operation but isn't otherwise involved, Environmental Protection spokeswoman Darlene Yuhas said.
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