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Geese culled to reduce bird-strike risk to planes

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FERAL geese nesting in St Ouen’s Bay have been culled in an effort to prevent aircraft being brought down by birds, it has been revealed.

Greylag geese were targeted in the west of the Island following concerns that a rapid rise in their population could increase the risk of bird strikes on planes going to and from the Airport

After receiving a licence from the Environment Department, a team of UK pest controllers spent a week in the Island shooting the birds on behalf of Ports of Jersey last month.

It was feared that a lack of action could have led to the animals' numbers increasing into the thousands, causing problem for air traffic and, potentially, the bay’s ecology.

A spokesman for Ports of Jersey said that they had previously tried to control the geese through non-lethal means, but that those had proven ineffective. The non-lethal methods included 'egg addling' – ensuring that a fertilised egg doesn't hatch.

‘A Civil Aviation report has stated that the risk of a catastrophic accident owing to multiple engine thrust loss after a bird strike encounter with a flock of geese is rising dramatically, and that landowners near airports must take measures to minimise the use of their land by geese to avoid impacting on future aviation operational activities,’ he said.

‘It is estimated that the population of the feral greylag geese in St Ouen's Bay now numbers in excess of 400 and that is expected to increase to several thousand within the next five to ten years if we do not take steps to limit their number by means of humanely culling them.’

According to a CAA report, between 2012 and 2016 the number of confirmed bird strikes in the UK rose from 1,380 to 1,835. The number of near misses also increased from 157 to 268.

In 2014, a Flybe plane taking off from Guernsey Airport collided with a bird, destroying a large part of one of its propellers in the process.

And in 2009, more than 1,200 geese were culled in New York after it was discovered that a number of birds were responsible for bringing down US Airways flight 1549 which ultimately ditched safely in the Hudson River.

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Meanwhile, Environment Minister Steve Luce said that the birds could also pose an ecological risk.

‘These geese are domestic and probably started off from a flock of around a dozen and have increased to hundreds. If we left them, there could be thousands and they would eventually start having an effect on the ecology of the bay.’

He added: ‘If we have one bird fly into an engine it is bad, but if we have multiple birds fly into an engine it could be catastrophic.

‘It is not as if someone came and knocked on our door and asked us if they could go shooting geese. They came to us with evidence and we granted the licence on safety grounds.’

It is not known how many geese were shot during the cull.

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