The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey killed 26,000 birds over the last four years who had the misfortune of being in and around the John F.Kennedy Airport area.
According to DNAinfo, 1,600 of these birds were protected species – meaning they were endangered or at-risk species – that the authority did not have permission to kill. Citing internal records, between 2009 and 2013 1,628 birds from 18 different species that were killed were protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.
While the agency is in charge of the airport and had permission to shoot “problem” species that threatened airplanes going in and out of the airport, the report has found that many of the killings were beyond the scope of the permission the agency had.
The Port Authority, which contracts the job of managing airport bird hazards to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, is able to shoot these species because its permits make allowance for “emergency situations,” according to the permit.
That means any migratory birds can be exterminated if they are deemed to pose a “direct threat to human safety” — with the exceptions of eagles and endangered or threatened species, under the law.
Carol Bannerman, a spokeswoman for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said the actions it takes to reduce wildlife hazards at airports are “in compliance with federal and state rules” and that it relied more on non-lethal measures.
The agency has also gunned down the brown-headed cowbird, boat-tailed grackle, common raven, American crow, fish crow and waterfowl and wading birds that relish the coastal wetlands neighboring Kennedy, such as the wood duck, bufflehead, American wigeon, semipalmated plover, sanderling, least sandpiper, black-crowned night heron, great egret and cattle egret, according to Port Authority records.
The New York Post, also reporting on the issue, quoted animal-rights groups that called the agency “trigger happy” and:
“We find it upsetting they discontinued [nonlethal controls] . . . and decided it was more cost-effective to just shoot them,” said Glenn Phillips of New York City Audubon Society.
The Post reported that they also killed animals even if they didn’t have wings. “Tarmac hunters also killed four red foxes, 11 coyotes, 44 muskrats, 62 woodchucks and 11 white-tailed deer. Eighty-two eastern cottontail rabbits were killed at Newark and JFK airports, along with 44 black-tailed jack rabbits at JFK.”
The agency’s readiness to kill birds has been the subject of much controversy before and they recently removed the snowy owl from their kill list. And even when the agency isn’t killing birds, the airport still causes environmentalists to cringe.
The airport is in the middle of the Atlantic flyway, one of North America’s busiest routes for migrating birds. It’s surrounded by national parkland and a wildlife reserve.