Port Authority Kills 20,000 Animals/DEC To Revise Mute Swan Management Plan
In 2012-2013 the Port Authority killed (from left to right) 19 red-tailed hawks, 4 red foxes and 5,729 laughing gulls. (Photos: Corbis, AP, Getty Images)
The Port Authority killed 20,000 animals around area airports according to 2012-13 data obtained through a Freedom of Information request. The most targeted animal was the laughing gull, with 5,729 killed at JFK Airport, whose nearby marshes are New York’s only breeding colonies for the birds. Hunters at JFK Airport also killed 11 ospreys, which are labeled as at-risk in New York and killed 44 black-tailed jack rabbits. JFK is surrounded by the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge.
On Friday the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) issued a statement saying they were revising their Mute Swan Management plan without giving specifics. They are considering changes to the draft plan and are creating an additional opportunity for public comment.
“The revised plan will seek to balance the conflicting views about management of mute swans in New York," DEC Commissioner Joe Martens announced.
The move comes after the agency received close to 50,000 comments on the plan including form letters and signatures on various petitions in five weeks.
Advocates credited the quick and strong response of state legislators, animal advocacy organizations, and many others came together at an early and forced the DEC to revisit their plans.
The change is giving animal rights advocates hope.
"This victory could not have been achieved without our collective efforts," David Karopkin, founder of GooseWatch NYC, an urban-wildlife advocacy group state in a statement.
"However, our work is far from finished - the plan to destroy NY's swans has been set in motion, hundreds have already been killed, and the DEC must be deterred from pursuing all-out extermination. We will strongly oppose any revision that seeks to expand the killing of these innocent animals.
DEC's "swan plan" is part of a much larger war on wildlife, and animals are losing. Since the killing of NYC's Canada geese began we have seen many other species targeted by USDA Wildlife Services, such as turkeys in Staten Island, deer on Long Island and in Westchester, this morning the NY Post reported that the Port Authority has killed more than 20,000 animals at NYC airports in the past two years ... the list is very long. Taxpayers are funding the needless slaughter of millions of animals, we must keep the pressure on to change these policies."
On Thursday, March 6th, 2014 at 1pm, David Karopin will be giving a presentation at Brooklyn Law School about urban wildlife law & policy and the work GooseWatch NYC has done. Aviation expert Ken Paskar will be on hand to answer questions relating to air safety. RSVP Required.
The Port Authority killed 20,000 animals over the past two years — including three bird species deemed endangered or threatened, The Post has learned.
The agency shotgunned a northern harrier at New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport — even though the hawk is endangered in the state, according to 2012-13 data obtained through a Freedom of Information request.
Teterboro’s shooters also zapped an American kestrel, a small falcon listed as threatened in New Jersey. And hunters at JFK Airport offed 11 ospreys, which are labeled as at-risk in New York.
Animal conservation groups were outraged.
“We find it upsetting they discontinued [nonlethal controls] . . . and decided it was more cost-effective to just shoot them,” said Glenn Phillips of New York City Audubon Society.
The most targeted animal was the laughing gull, with 5,729 killed at JFK Airport, whose nearby marshes are New York’s only breeding colonies for the birds.
PA contractors also killed 3,203 European starlings, 2,445 herring gulls and 1,908 mourning doves.
Even a tiny monk parakeet was not spared the fusillade, which is meant to keep runways clear of engine-jamming critters.
“A parakeet?” fumed Priscilla Feral, president of Darien, Conn.-based Friends of Animals, which sued the USDA last year over the PA’s killing of snowy owls.
“The idea that parakeets would bring down an aircraft is ridiculous,” she said. “This gives you an idea of how trigger-happy they [the PA] are.”
But birds weren’t the only animals in the cross hairs: Tarmac hunters also killed four red foxes, 11 coyotes, 44 muskrats, 62 woodchucks and 11 white-tailed deer. Eighty-two eastern cottontail rabbits were killed at Newark and JFK airports, along with 44 black-tailed jack rabbits at JFK.
“They take a kill-first approach,” said David Karopkin, founder of GooseWatch NYC, an urban-wildlife advocacy group.
“There’s no incentive to take a long-term look at this issue. Killing is a way for them to pat themselves on the shoulder and say they’re protecting people.”
The PA’s extermination of animals began in the early 1990s but gained attention in 2009 when Capt. Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger crash-landed a US Airways flight on the Hudson River after Canada geese stalled the Airbus A320’s twin engines.
New York state wildlife-management permits say hunters may not harm endangered and threatened species or animals of special concern.
In New Jersey, specialists may use only “nonlethal scare devices” on endangered and threatened species, state permits say.
PA spokesman Ron Marsico said the agency has a permit to shoot the osprey because they “posed immediate threats to aviation safety and did not respond to nonlethal harassment.”
He also explained that the harrier and kestrel were killed because “nonlethal control efforts were not effective” and that state and federal authorities were notified.
Nearly 95 percent of the PA’s wildlife-control measures were nonlethal, the agency claims.
Animals killed by the Port Authority in 2012-2013 at area airports:
Laughing gull: 5,729
European starling: 3,203
Herring gull: 2,445
Mourning dove: 1,908
Brown-headed cowbird: 1,070
Canada goose: 997
Atlantic brant: 912
Ring-billed gull: 798
Rock pigeon: 723
Double-crested cormorant: 436
Great black-backed gull: 414
Red-winged blackbird: 335
Barn swallow: 234
House sparrow: 141
Eastern cottontail rabbit: 82
Fish crow: 69
Snow bunting: 58
Mute swan: 51
Great egret: 46
Black-tailed jackrabbit: 44
American black duck: 42
Great blue heron: 24
Least sandpiper: 22
Red-tailed hawk: 19
Virginia opossum: 18
American crow: 16
Boat-tailed grackle: 12
Norway rat: 12
American oystercatcher: 11
Striped skunk: 11
White-tailed deer: 11
Common grackle: 9
Ring-necked pheasant: 9
American robin: 5
American woodcock: 5
Snowy owl: 5
Northern mockingbird: 4
Red fox: 4
American kestrel: 3**
Snow goose: 3
Common raven: 2
Wild turkey: 2
American wigeon: 1
Black-crowned night heron: 1
Lesser yellowlegs: 1
Monk parakeet: 1
Northern harrier: 1***
Red-throated loon: 1
Semipalmated sandpiper: 1
Song sparrow: 1
Turkey vulture: 1
Unknown rodent: 1
Wood duck: 1
* Of special concern