BY SUE RUSSELL
Signaling its intention to round-up and slaughter Canada geese,
the Navesink River Municipalities Committee has recklessly "declared
war" on the species as a "major health threat" as
an implied prime source of two common waterborne parasites, Giardia
sp. and Cryptosporidium.
Committee Chairman John Simpson suggested sending the geese
to slaughterhouses and giving the carcasses to food banks. "Once
the community understands" Mr. Simpson told The Asbury Park
Press, "we can do something."
But a big part of the problem is the information that has reached
the community. Interests in the County seem hell-bent on killing
federally protected Canada geese but are required to show that
the geese are "seriously injurious" before booking the
abattoirs. Where no requisite harm remotely exists one appears
to have been manufactured in violation of federal law. Let's call
it an end run around the inconvenient Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
The best-kept secret in Monmouth County is this: According
to state and university public health experts including the New
Jersey Department of Health, goose feces are fairly innocuous,
posing little or no health risks to humans. Once again, senior
expert opinion strongly contradicts the alarmist anti-goose campaign
run by Monmouth County Health Officer Lester W. Jargowsky.
Dr. Timothy Ford, professor at the Harvard School of Public
Health and author of "Microbiological Safety of Drinking Water:
United States and Global Perspective 1999," states: "Numbers
of Cryptosporidium oocysts associated with Canada geese and waterfowl
in general are likely to be minimal, unimportant relative to the
potential for oocysts shed from other forms of wildlife and humans.
In my mind, there is no possibility that the Canada goose will
ever be a major route of infection. To suggest otherwise is utterly
ludicrous and you can quote me."
Utterly ludicrous and presented as fact in Monmouth County.
And David S. Adam, Coordinator of Health Projects, Vector Control,
Infectious and Zoonotic Disease Program for the State of New Jersey
Department of Health, writes: "Giardia lamblia, as well as
Cryptosporidium, is most commonly transmitted to humans by person-to-person
fecal-oral contamination or by water fecally contaminated by humans
or other mammals. Infection is usually asymptomatic with children
infected more frequently than adults, often in the day-care setting.
In summary, the role of Canada geese in the transmission of Cryptospordium
or Giardia to humans is not well established, but appears to be
small compared with other modes of transmission."
Mr. Adams adds that Canada geese have been wrongly blamed for
beach closings: "A number of beach closings including several
in New Jersey have been attributed to this cause [high fecal coliform
counts attributed to Canada geese]. However, research on this subject
(including surveillance conducted in New Jersey) has usually found
very low levels of pathogenic bacteria such as Salmonella sp. in
the feces of waterfowl not exposed to human sewage effluent." Another
Dr. Milton Friend, former director, Wildlife Research Center
Water Fowl Disease U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, is adamant: "On
occasion we have been wading in that stuff [feces], dead birds
up to our elbows... there is not a single, documented case of any
of us coming down with any kind of a disease problem as a result
of Canada geese... we do not have a human health situation, not
in the urban goose, not in the wild goose, not in the captive geese
that we have also worked with. We do have a lot of diseases out
there that can affect people. Most of them come from different
places and do not come from the Canada goose and I'll leave you
Giardia sp., is common throughout the world. The Centers
for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that prevalence
is higher in areas of poor sanitation and in institutions where
children are not toilet-trained. The CDC lists "institutions
and day-care centers as the principle mode of spread. " Principle
reservoirs are listed as "humans, possibly beaver and domestic
animals" -- geese aren't even mentioned.
In animals Crytosporidiosis is found almost exclusively in
newborn puppies and kittens. Even then, "there has been no
transmission to humans." (CDC, June 1999.)
In the recent spate of publicity, the parasites have been associated
only with geese, even when there is no record of infection to humans.
How the Canada goose metamorphosed into a "major health threat" is
a case study in manipulation of public -- your -- attitudes. It
was done through a series of wrong inferences, insinuation, exaggeration,
and omission. It appears to be [a] full-time, on-going project
at taxpayer expense.
What has been going on transcends Canada geese and goes to
the heart of good government, not to mention the Migratory Bird
Treaty Act. A tiny fiefdom in Freehold has gone unchecked and unchallenged
for too long. We have some of the answers. It's past time legislators
and attorneys started asking the right questions. In the meantime,
the Canada goose -- majestic, intelligent, loyal beyond all bounds
to to mate and offspring is up against it. Abandoned by bird snobs,
overproduced by game managers, set-up by bureaucrats, hated by
a vocal minority; all are piling on, and its future looks bleak.
If you believe in lost causes, this is your bird.