Even to Friends, the Goose Is Cooked

Ever since us airways flight 1549 made its miraculous safe landing on the Hudson River in January, America has had a new public enemy—a villain so resilient that annihilation through open war appears to be the only way to save ourselves. This scourge's name? The wild goose. "Get rid of the geese so that humans can live!" a frothing Sean Hannity cried on Fox News; the New York Post followed suit, advocating an all-out avian assault. In the weeks that followed the near disaster, people offered new weapons for the fight, including a technique called egg addling, which one proponent, David Feld, explains thus: "You find their eggs and cover them in corn oil. It shuts down the embryonic process." (It also gives new meaning to the phrase "your goose is cooked.") Feld, by the way, is the founder of GeesePeace, an organization devoted to the birds' humane treatment, meaning he's supposed to be on their side. But that's the life of a goose today: even your friends want you dead. Just imagine if Sully hadn't safely landed that plane.

Amid all the bloodlust, animal activists and bird lovers are pleading for a little perspective. "We need to realize how we got here," says Sharon Pawlak of the Coalition to Prevent the Destruction of Canada Geese. "We build airports near wetlands, golf courses and homes near lakes, and then blame the geese for getting in our way. Where do we want them to go?" After they were hunted to the brink of extinction in the 1960s, there are now more than 1 million geese in the U.S., many of them the nonmigratory descendants of birds reared under the restoration efforts. "They're trapped," says Feld, who argues that egg addling is humane compared with how the USDA's Wildlife Services typically handles goose infestations: by rounding them up and gassing them.

Even some traditional allies of the animal kingdom, such as PETA and the Audubon Society, support egg addling. It's a testimony to how intractable and—all kidding aside—how dire the problem has become, especially around airports, where the number of bird strikes spiked from 1,750 in 1990 to 7,600 in 2007. "It's next to impossible to get around this, unless we move the airports," says John Ostrom, chair of the Bird Strike Committee USA. There is a milder solution out there: goose contraception. A product called OvoControl, from California's Innolytics, acts as a birthcontrol pill for geese at a cost of $10 per bird per year. "The result is the same as egg addling," says Innolytics CEO Erick Wolf. "Except instead of an army of volunteers, all you need is one guy in a golf cart." Can't we all just get along?