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U.S. Plan on Killing Birds in New York

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Wildlife Services arm has put together a plan titled “Reducing Bird Damage in the State of New York” which includes a “preferred alternative” that involves continuing its both “nonlethal and lethal bird management techniques.” The “lethal techniques…may include the use of shooting, live capture and euthanasia, avicides” and “nest/egg destruction.”

Wildlife Services’ “Environmental Assessment” for its plan is online at https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=APHIS-2019-0070-0001

Many bird species are involved. The “Environmental Assessment” lists nearly 150 species for which in doing “bird damage management” Wildlife Services received requests “for assistance” between 2013 and 2017 “or anticipates receiving requests” in the future.

Starting with A, the list includes: American black duck, American coot, American golden plover, American goldfinch, American kestrel, American oystercatcher, American robin, American wigeon, American woodcock and goes on to bald eagle, barn owl, barn swallow, barred owl, belted kingfisher, black-bellied plover, black-crowned night-heron, black tern and continues to Bonaparte’s gull, the brown-headed cowbird and on to clapper rail, cliff swallow, common goldeneye, common loon, common merganser, common raven, common tern.

An American goldfinch—a cause of “damage?”

And it goes on to downy woodpecker and eastern meadowlark, eastern screech owl, eastern towhee, Eskimo curlew and on to grasshopper sparrow, gray catbird, great black-backed gull, great blue heron, great egret, great horned owl, greater scaup, greater snow goose, greater yellowleg, green heron, green-winged teal, gulf-billed tern, hairy woodpecker, Henslowe’s sparrow, hermit thrush, least tern, lesser yellowleg, loggerhead shrike, long-eared owl, long-tailed duck, mallard, merlin, monk parakeet, mourning dove, mute swan, northern cardinal, northern flicker and northern mockingbird.

The eastern meadowlark and the mourning dove—causes of “damage?”

And it continues to northern pintail, northern rough-winged swallow and osprey, palm warbler and pileated woodpecker, purple martin, red-bellied woodpecker, red-breasted merganser, red-headed woodpecker, red-shouldered hawk and ring-necked duck.

And concludes with royal tern, ruddy duck, sanderling, Savannah sparrow and semipalmated plover, semipalmated sandpiper and short-eared owl, snow bunting, snowy egret, snowy owl, song sparrow, spotted sandpiper, spruce grouse, Swainson’s thrush, tree swallow and Virginia rail, whimbrel, white-throated sparrow and wild turkey, willet, wood duck, yellow-bellied sapsucker, yellow-crowned night-heron and yellow-rumped warbler.

A song sparrow—a cause of “damage?”

“The list is eye-popping,” says David Karopkin, board member and wildlife advisor of Voters for Animal Rights, and also an attorney. “The list includes protected species…Wildlife Services is talking about killing a massive number of birds.”

He says it is reason for the elimination of the Wildlife Services unit of USDA. It is an agency, says Karopkin, “that is out of control.”

In its section titled “Need For Action,” the 140-page “Environmental Assessment” declares: “Some species of wildlife have adapted to and have thrived in human-altered habitats. Those species, in particular, are often responsible for the majority of conflicts between humans and wildlife that lead to requests for assistance to reduce damage to resources and to reduce threats to human safety.”

It goes on: “Birds add an aesthetic component to the environment, sometimes provide opportunities for recreational hunting and bird watching, and like all wildlife, provide people with valued close contact with nature.” But “because of their prolific nature, site tenacity, longevity, size, and tolerance of human activity, many bird species are often associated with situations where damage or threats can occur.”

Three options are presented: one is headed “No Bird Damage Management Conducted by WS,” another involves “nonlethal bird damage management only,” and the “preferred alternative” is “Continuing the Current Integrated Approach…use of the full range of nonlethal and lethal bird management techniques.”

There are 225 comments posted online by Wildlife Services, among them that of Voters for Animal Rights: “At a time when wildlife is so imperiled and threatened by climate change and human activity, we should do everything we can to protect and preserve these animals, not design new plans and promote new reasons and ways to kill them.” Birds, the organization goes on, “are an integral part of our ecosystem.”

Wildlife Services’ plan, notes Karopkin, comes while a study published in the journal Science in September determined that the U.S. and Canada lost 2.9 billion birds since 1970.

Karopkin says people need to “get involved politically—and get together to amplify their voices.” His organization just held a “Lobbying 101 Workshop” in Smithtown. He urges people get in touch with him at david@vfar.org about taking action.

More articles by:

Karl Grossman, professor of journalism at State University of New York/College at Old Westbury, and is the author of the book, The Wrong Stuff: The Space’s Program’s Nuclear Threat to Our Planet. Grossman is an associate of the media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion.

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