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Canada geese swim in another New York park — Manhattan's Central Park — on June 21, 2001. ((Jeff Christensen/Reuters))

Officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture have killed hundreds of Canada geese in a bid to improve airline security, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

The geese had been living in Prospect Park, a 2.4-square-kilometre park in Brooklyn, N.Y., that is used widely for recreational purposes.

Last Thursday morning, wildlife officials and biologists descended on the park, herded the geese into crates and took them to a nearby building where they were gassed, USDA spokeswoman Carol A. Bannerman told the Times.

"We are talking about aviation and passenger and property safety," Bannerman is quoted as saying, in defending the measure. "In New York City, from 1981 to 1999, the population increase [of geese] was sevenfold."

Geese blamed for accident

In January 2009, a large flock of Canada geese slammed head-on into a US Airways jetliner shortly after it took off from New York's LaGuardia airport, forcing it to make an emergency landing in the Hudson River.

But aviation safety is not listed among the many problems — accumulation of droppings, fouling of recreational areas, attacks on humans — that can "quickly develop as bird numbers increase," according to a USDA fact sheet.

The same fact sheet also suggests that euthanizing Canada geese is the most effective way to reduce their local population.

City parks officials granted permission for the birds' removal but told the Times they were not notified of the specifics.

Local resident Anne-Katrin Titze called the geese's removal "a horrible end," the Times reported. Another resident, Seth Kaplan, said he was crushed when he heard what happened.