MEDIA RELEASE: “Waterfowl Warrior” Betty Butler Dies at 83

MEDIA RELEASE: “Waterfowl Warrior” Betty Butler Dies at 83

MONMOUTH COUNTY, N.J. (May 10, 2023)In Defense of Animals’ National Goose Protection Coalition mourns the death of Betty Butler who passed away on April 29. The National Goose Protection Coalition issued its first ever Goose Savior Award to Butler in 2022 for her heroic efforts to save swans. In her memory, the coalition has renamed the award the Betty Butler Goose Savior Award and will continue to award it to waterfowl warriors like her.

“Betty Butler dedicated her life to rescuing and advocating for geese and swans in her community and beyond, and we mourn her loss,” said Lisa Levinson, Campaigns Director for In Defense of Animals. “Betty was the perfect example of a Goose Savior who goes above and beyond the call of duty to save waterfowl. She has been instrumental in saving animals both in and out of the public eye. In her memory, In Defense of Animals’ National Goose Protection will present future water bird defenders with the ‘Betty Butler Goose Savior Award.’”

“I think Betty's greatest pain was still having to fight for her beloved waterfowl after more than 25 years,” said waterfowl expert and National Goose Protection Coalition member Arlene Steinberg. “She was one of the original waterfowl warriors and a great example for me personally. Fly high and soar free, Betty — you will be our inspiration and perhaps you can direct some wisdom to us from heaven, where I hope you are reuniting with your beloved swans and all the birds you tried so hard to save. We will continue your battle.”

“She had been a rehabilitator, supported rehabilitators and their work, supported swan-related lawsuits and the people who rescued wildlife, and facilitated countless rescues,” said Sue Russel, Wildlife Policy Director for the Animal Protection League of New Jersey in a recent newsletter to acknowledge Butler’s passing. “APLNJ was in regular contact with Betty seeking her input on calls we received regarding goose issues and rescues. Her passion was opposing the scandalous conflict of interest and bias of U.S. wildlife policies, the enormous amounts of public money used by USDA and others to kill Canada geese – and swans.”

Butler was a founding member of the National Goose Protection Coalition, which formed in 2019 to help concerned citizens stop goose cruelty in their communities. The coalition provides resources, education, and advocacy tools for people who want to help geese via nonlethal means of resolving human-geese conflicts such as habitat modification and planting riparian buffers. The coalition aims to stop brutal and cruel goose killings or “roundups” via permits obtained from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, often conducted by its own animal-killing branch called Wildlife Services.

Butler regarded the coalition’s work highly and said, “I appreciate the important work In Defense of Animals is doing. Our monthly coalition meetings have accomplished the most important national communication and coordination required. Our coalition provides a service that is very valuable and necessary to the survival of the Canada geese and wildlife generally in the United States as well as elsewhere. I am hoping to continue with this effort because a pattern develops of systematic use of wildlife for financial gain by government agencies.”

Butler’s waterfowl advocacy was highlighted in her obituary. In February of 1998, she organized and held a multi-state day-long conference at the Ocean Place Hilton in Long Branch, N.J., for municipal, county, and state level individuals, and various groups interested in humane treatment of resident and migratory Canada geese and other waterfowl. More than 350 advocates attended and launched 25 years of personal commitment to the cause. Butler distributed relevant information needed to further humane treatment and knowledge of Canada geese. 

Butler also rehabilitated and released Canada geese and mute swans. In one of many rescues, she raised and later released three orphaned Canada geese. Their successful release required meticulous attention to details while respecting their need to be wild. She also helped to save famed New Jersey swan, Alfie, from a death sentence and secured him a place at Popcorn Park, as reported by The New York Times.

Butler gathered data from goose killing contracts for the state of New Jersey for 20 years. Her research demonstrated a pattern of spending millions of mostly taxpayer dollars to kill the same numbers of geese in the same locations for decades. Before she died, Betty bequeathed her research data to the National Goose Protection Coalition, which has committed to completing and publishing it for the benefit of geese everywhere.

“It is imperative to reveal how much money is being spent by whom and identification of recipients and number of years of contracts and renewal clause,” Butler said. “I have been active in New Jersey since 1998 when I organized a multi state meeting to attempt to stop Wildlife Services from roundups and slaughter of Canada geese. Unless and until something effective has been done to expose Wildlife Services and the Department of Agriculture the unacceptable massive killing is going to expand nationwide.”

“There is no question that wildlife killing and ‘management’ have become a significant source of income,” continued Butler. “In reviewing over twenty years of management that becomes obvious. The taxpayer funded killing contracts are extended, some for several years, totaling in the millions of dollars in New Jersey alone. Killing provides a void that is soon filled by more Canada geese. The only solution to the human/Canada goose conflict is habitat modification. Killing is not only cruel but totally ineffectual and very costly. I am convinced the only way to end the killing is to remove the profit that is now built in. Hopefully, my research will provide a useful and meaningful foundation for a successful national campaign against killing wildlife for financial gain.”

In Defense of Animals’ National Goose Protection Coalition issued its first Goose Savior Award to Betty Butler in 2022. Images: In Defense of Animals

In Defense of Animals’ National Goose Protection Coalition issues Goose Savior Awards to honor good deeds and recognize humane efforts by individuals towards waterfowl. 

Learn more about goose persecution and find nonlethal goose stewardship strategies at:

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Images of Betty Butler and the 2022 award can be viewed and downloaded here.

Contact: Lisa Levinson,, (215) 620-2130

In Defense of Animals is an international animal protection organization based in Marin county, California with over 250,000 supporters and a 40-year history of fighting for animals, people, and the environment through education and campaigns, as well as hands-on rescue facilities in India, South Korea, California, and rural Mississippi.


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