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Port Authority’s Excessive Animal Cull Isn’t Working, Data Says

The Port Authority, the organization that controls New York and New Jersey's airports, is killing thousands of animals each year -- and for no apparent reason, according to an investigation by the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

Earlier this year, news broke that the agency was culling animals, mostly birds, in an effort to prevent them from getting sucked into a plane's propellor and jeopardizing passengers' lives. They had killed over 20,000 animals -- mainly birds and foxes -- over just the past two years, including a number of species considered threatened or endangered. The agency has been operating using a "kill-first" approach, reportedly in effect since the 1990s.

Now, data says that the cull program is pointless. Says the Star-Ledger:

An analysis of Port Authority and Federal Aviation Administration data by The Star-Ledger shows that though the agency has expanded its wildlife management program considerably since 2009, wildlife collisions with aircraft at New Jersey airports have not declined.

According to the data, there is an aircraft-animal (usually a bird) collision once every two days -- but this figure hasn't changed since 2008, despite ramped-up management.

During that time, however, the number of animals - from European starlings to foxes to the threatened American kestrel - killed by the Port Authority has skyrocketed. In Newark, for example, just 10 animals were killed by the agency in 2008, while 1,267 were killed two years later.

"It's a response to an oversensitive issue with respect to the public," David Mizrahi, vice president for research and monitoring at the New Jersey Audubon Society, told the Star-Ledger. "People want to understand that they're out there doing something. But there are several ways to get at the wildlife hazard problem. I think airfields are a little slow on the uptake in coming around to them."

Port Authority spokesman Ron Marisco responded to the findings:

"The safety of more than 110 million passengers using Port Authority airports annually is the agency's highest aviation priority. The Port Authority has wildlife biologists on staff, and last year approximately 95 percent of wildlife mitigation efforts at the agency's airports involved nonlethal measures. Nonlethal means are employed where possible to keep wildlife from endangering the lives of passengers and crews, including use of pyrotechnics, other loud noises and habitat management like the reduction of tall grass and standing water to help keep birds and animals away."

Are you concerned about the treatment of animals? Voice your opinion by using the hashtag #StopAnimalCruelty or #StopAnimalAbuse on Twitter or Instagram. You can see your contribution and others below: