"Culling" Wildlife

“Culls” are nothing short of a euphemism for “massacres.” Called “Agriculture’s Misnamed Agency” by the New York Times, USDA APHIS Wildlife Services wasted $124 million in taxpayer dollars to massacre 1.76 million animals in 2021. 400,000 of those animals were native. Some of them were pets. 3,000 were unintentional. Countless others were killed by private exterminators. 

Contract Killing and Taxpayer waste

Hitmen for animal agricuLTURE

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA APHIS)’s Wildlife Services division is tasked with addressing and resolving conflicts with wild animals who cause economic harm or threaten human or animal health and safety. However, whether we’re talking about deer in Southold or geese in Islip, throughout its history, Wildlife Services has resorted to lethal management at nearly every turn. In its early days, massive poisoning campaigns aimed at all predatory species constituted a literal war on wildlife from which this country and its environment are still recovering. Today’s Wildlife Services program continues to kill in the millions, sadly reflecting an organizational culture that continues to embrace lethal control as a primary practice in resolving human-wildlife conflicts.

In 2021 alone, Wildlife Services wasted $124 million in taxpayer dollars to massacre 1.76 million animals. 400,000 of those animals were native. Some of them were pets. At least 3,000 were unintentional. Countless others were killed by private exterminators with permission by its sister agency: the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

Scape-goosing Human-Caused pollution

Stormwater runoff, agricultural runoff, industrial discharges, and other human-related factors often have more substantial and widespread impacts on water quality.

Opportunity on the Hudson

On January 15, 2009, birds took the blame for bringing down the jetliner that “Sully” Sullenberger landed on the Hudson, and USDA Wildlife Services has used the opportunity to kill more than 100,000 of them near—and as you’ll see below, far away from—New York airports ever since.  

Despite LaGuardia and Newark airports contracting with the USDA to massacre birds near the airports in the wake of the “Miracle on the Hudson”, the number of recorded bird strikes involving those airports has nearly doubled in the years that followed. Swans, blackbirds, crows, starlings, and even “federally-protected” Snowy owls have been added to Wildlife Service’s hit-list since. 

In 2020, Wildlife Services’ carelessness resulted in the massacre of 86 geese and baby goslings at Milburn Pond Park under the pretense of “flight safety,” despite the park being more than 11 miles from the nearest airport. Following inquiries by the South Shore Audubon Society and a vigil by Humane Long Island, the agency admitted to rounding up the geese and their babies during their molting season—when the birds lose their flight feathers and are most helpless—and apologized for its “error.”

Killing with Cloak & Cyanide

Lack of Transparency

In 2017, Humane Long Island was invited to present about Canada geese before the Lake Ronkonkoma Advisory Board. Ahead of Humane LI was the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and USDA Wildlife Services who pitched massacring two hundred geese on the Lake. Noting that public outcry could be fierce, the representatives said they would come under the cover of night and could even use fertility control ahead of the season so the public would be less likely to catch them on camera killing babies—moments before the same representative had told the board ostensibly that fertility control didn’t work, which is why killing the geese was the only option. If Humane LI wasn’t there to call out these inconsistencies, hundreds of geese would have been killed just for another flock to settle in and be killed the following year as well; however, thankfully the Advisory Board took our recommendations instead. 

While Humane Long Island has been able to stop massacres of Long Island wildlife nearly every time we’ve learned about it, our state and federal agencies routinely circumvent Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) to avoid being held accountable. For example, when Humane Long Island submitted a FOIL request for records related to deer and geese kill contracts in 2022, the DEC denied the request in its entirety, citing “POL 87.2.f. Could endanger the life or safety of any person if disclosed.”

Dodging ‘fair chase’, endangering public safety & KIlling pets

Violating Freedom of Information Law is only the tip of the iceberg in terms of state and federal agencies exempting themselves from the law. For example, the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) protects migratory birds, including Canada geese, from being hunted during their molting season—when they flightless and caring for their babies; however, this is exactly the time the USDA schedules its Canada geese roundups. On Long Island, Wildlife Service agents have also routinely baited deer over the course of several days to gain their trust before killing them using silencers under the cover of night. 

Wildlife Services’ cruelty is not just limited to prey animals. The agency is known to use aerial gunning to shoot wolves from helicopters and M-44 cyanide devices—which release poisonous sodium cyanide when triggered—to kill predators such as coyotes. M-44 cyanide devices are so cruel and indiscriminate that the Bureau of Land Management banned their use on public lands in 2023 following the hospitalization of a child and the death of his dog Kasey who triggered one while playing only 400 feet from their home. Wildlife Services’ use of Sodium Flouroacetate (Compound 1080) is similarly irresponsible due to its high toxicity and potential impact on non-target animals, the environment, and concerns about human safety.

poisoning the underprivileged

Killing wildlife is a proven public relations nightmare, so in an attempt to sanitize wildlife massacres, public officials will often announce a plan to launder the meat by donating it to low-income communities. Since massacres are ostensibly ordered on the grounds that animals must be killed because they are somehow starving, sickly, or spreading disease, this charade is not only patronizing but exposes a major crack in the facade of why these massacres are being ordered in the first place. 

Legitimate hunger relief organizationsincluding the NYC Coalition for the Homeless and Long Island’s Community Solidarityhave spoken out against these carcass donations due to the threat of contaminants. In fact, these donations are often accompanied by a label cautioning that it should not be consumed more than once in a month. In Westchester, this warning has come along with a second: that the meat might contain bird-shot—a type of shotgun shell. 


Coexisting with WIldlife

Keep Wildlife Wild


Habitat Modification



Humane Deterrents


Fertility Control


What Humane Long Island is doing to help

Leading campaigns to stop mass killings before they happen

After campaigns led by Humane Long Island, North Hempstead officials scrapped plans to massacre 600 geese; Islip UFSD ended an 8-year tradition of hiring Wildlife Services to execute hundreds of geese annually on its properties; the Lake Ronkonkoma Advisory Board pursued birth control rather than slaughter; and Brightwaters and Cornwall-on-the-Hudson committed to pursue only humane, nonlethal geese management.

East Hampton, Southampton, Brookhaven, Riverhead, and Shelter Island canceled plans to hire Wildlife Services to kill ~5,000 deer on the East End following a campaign by Humane Long Island and our friends at the Wildlife Preservation Coalition of Eastern Long Island. 

International Duck Defenders program & Steering the National Goose protection Coalition

Humane Long Island’s international Duck Defenders program is the leading resource for domestic waterfowl rescue and advocacy in North America and advises agencies across the continent about how to amicably resolve issues concerning ducks and geese. 

In 2022, Humane Long Island and its Duck Defenders program were honored to receive the National Goose Protection Coalition’s inaugural Golden Goose Award, and Humane Long Island’s executive director now serves on the steering committee for the coalition—which provides resources, education, and advocacy tools for people who want to help geese in their communities via nonlethal means of resolving human-geese conflicts. 

building bridges with USDA APHIS Wildlife Services

After Save the Geese Bloomsburg sounded the alarm that USDA APHIS Wildlife Services would be removing up to 70 ducks from Fairground Road Park in East Buffalo Township, Humane Long Island’s Duck Defenders program offered a solution beneficial for both the ducks and the community: working in cooperation with Wildlife Services to humanely relocate the domestic ducks to reputable homes and sanctuaries.

Following a successful effort in East Buffalo Township, this burgeoning relationship between Humane Long Island and Wildlife Services will likely save the lives of many more domestic ducks and geese to come. 

Like geese, we fly further together

HumaneLI Executive Director John Di Leonardo and USDA APHIS Wildlife Services Wildlife Biologist Kyle Van Why work cooperatively to untangle ducks from a net at Fairground Road Park in East Buffalo Township.
Photo Credit: Jim Diehl / The News-Item