Animal advocates debate use of OvoControl to halt massacres of pigeons & geese

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2010:
(published October 5, 2010)

NEW YORK CITY–Controversy raged in New York City and suburbs
throughout summer 2010–as in most summers–over bird control.
In 2010, however, the disputes expanded from whether or not
birds should be killed to a division of opinion among animal
advocates over the possible introduction of OvoControl, a new avian
contraceptive made by Innolytics LLC, of California, as an
alternative to killing.
New York City Council member James Oddo, of Staten Island,
has pushed for the use of OvoControl against pigeons since 2007. New
York City Council members Brad Lander, Stephen Levin, and Letitia
James and New York state senator Eric Adams on August 11, 2010
joined representatives of In Defense of Animals at a City Hall rally
calling for the use of OvoControl instead of lethal culling against
nonmigratory Canada geese.

The Humane Society of the U.S., PETA, and People for
Pigeons also favor Ovocontrol. The New York Bird Club and Friends of
Animals are opposed, and are critical of any use of contraceptives
to regulate wild animal populations.
Explained HSUS president Wayne Pacelle to members of GooseNet
in May 2010, “OvoControl is a kibble bait that uses the compound
nicarbazin to effectively reduce egg hatching rates. Long used in
the commercial poultry industry, nicarbazin’s effects are not
permanent. There is no evidence that it produces health or
environmental consequences other than its prevention of egg
development. It poses no threat to birds of prey or non-target bird
species because it rapidly clears from the system. When properly
administered, it is not consumed in large enough quantities to alter
reproduction in non-target birds.
“OvoControl has been effective in reducing bird populations
in communities throughout the United States,” Pacelle said,
“including Los Angeles, Oakland, Phoenix, and Tucson. Until quite
recently, it was only available for use by licensed pesticide
applicators. In March, however, the Environmental Protection Agency
provided a general-use approval for OvoControl for pigeons.”
Approvals followed from the California Department of Pesticide
Regulation in April 2010, and from the New York Department of
Environmental Conservation in May 2010. New York was the last of the
50 states to ratify the federal registration.
Responded New York Bird Club founder Anna Dove, “As the
pigeon population steadily decreases on its own, most likely due to
extremely difficult conditions for survival, it may be likely that
the rock pigeon will meet the same fate as the billions of passenger
pigeons who once existed, but are now extinct due to the activities
of mankind and to loss of habitat.”
The archives of The New York Times document that furious
public denunciations and defenses of pigeons have accompanied
sporadic exterminations of pigeons, both officially authorized and
undertaken by vigilantes, for more than 150 years. In 2010,
however, the perennial pigeon wars took second place to the killing
of non-migratory Canada geese by USDA Wildlife Services–especially
after 400 geese from Prospect Park in Brooklyn were massacred on July
8, 2010.
Summarized Isolde Rafferty of The New York Times, “Officials
plan to reduce the number of Canada geese in New York State by
two-thirds, eventually trimming the population to 85,000 from
250,000, according to a report prepared by several city, state and
federal agencies. The reduction is part of a larger plan that also
calls for the near halving of the Canada geese population in 17
Atlantic states, to 650,000 from 1.1 million.”
USDA Wildlife Services began quietly capturing, killing,
and burying the remains of geese found in New York City parks and
other public property in 2009. The killing only became widely known
after the massacre of the Prospect Park flock, who were fed by many
park visitors.
Reported Rafferty, “The plan emerged from five months of
meetings that followed the crash-landing of US Airways Flight 1549 in
the Hudson River after geese flew into its engines and disabled them
in January 2009. The plan was completed in summer 2009 but not made
During the planning process, Rafferty wrote, “Officials
learned that there had been 78 Canada goose strikes over 10 years at
local airports and that those strikes caused more than $2.2 million
in aircraft damage. And they were reminded that 24 people were killed
in 1995 when an Air Force surveillance plane struck Canada geese in
Both the Flight 1549 incident and the 1995 crash in Alaska
involved high-flying migratory geese, not their low-flying and
relatively seldom-flying non-migratory cousins.
Descended from wild geese who were hybridized with domestic
geese in the first half of the 20th century to serve as live decoys
for goose hunters, non-migratory Canada geese were confiscated from
hunting clubs more than 70 years ago, after the use of live decoys
was prohibited by federal law, and were bred for use in restocking
depleted goose populations throughout North America.
The restocking continued in some states into the 1990s. The
original idea was that the nonmigratory geese would be hunted, but
they proliferated most in urban and suburban areas where they could
not be hunted. Nonmigratory Canada goose population growth
accelerated after goose and egg predators including raccoons, foxes,
and coyotes were heavily hunted and trapped during the wild-caught
fur boom and mid-Atlantic states raccoon rabies pandemic of the 1970s
and 1980s.
OvoControl is also registered for use by licensed applicators
to control Muscovy ducks. Pacelle projected that OvoControl might be
adapted to control feral chickens, adding, “The use of birth control
technology would advance even faster and further if wildlife agencies
and the sport hunting lobby did not have a knee-jerk opposition to
“While OvoControl for pigeons has experienced rapid growth
and acceptance by municipalities and businesses,” said Innolytics
chief executive officer Erick Wolf, “state and federal agencies have
been very reluctant to test it. The federal government financed a
large part of the research,” Wolf noted, “so it is unfortunate that
certain government agencies have been less than supportive of
OvoControl as a non-lethal and humane alternative for goose control,”
with little interest visible in application involving other
problematic species.

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