Mar 6, 2012

Goose waits months for rescue

On February 28th, WildRescue received a call from a woman who had been trying to get help for an injured Canada goose in Sunnyvale since the Fall, 2011. As she searched for aid, calling upon various resources, she received plenty of excuses about why no one would come help rescue the flighted bird. 


WildRescue responded immediately, sending one of our lead responders and goose capture expert, Deanna "goose whisperer" Barth, to the rescue. Here is her account:


As I arrived at the lagoon and opened my car door I was met by a large group of ducks, running up the embankment to greet me. This certainly confirmed the caller's statement that the resident waterfowl was used to being fed. Cynthia met me soon after, and led me down a path where the geese spend much of their time. I purposefully left my net and carrier in the car and carried only a bag of food with me.  

As we approcahed the Canada geese, I could see the injured one right away.  It appeared to be a female, much smaller in size than the one standing next to her - an impressive gander with quite an attitude, loudly protesting anything that came near.  

Photo courtesy WCSV.
The injury to the goose's leg was shocking, even from a distance. Fishing line wrapped tightly around her leg. Below where the line constricted her leg, the skin coloration was dark, and she was missing webbing between her toes. It looked more like a tree branch than a foot. 

Cynthia took her bag of food and led the growing number of ducks away from the geese so I would have room to stand. Now began the "dance."  

I knew the most difficult part of this capture would be maneuvering myself in between the injured goose and her mate. He pecked and chased away any of the other birds that got near, and was doing his best to intimidate me as well. As I got close he would loudly honk, hiss and flap his wings. Every time he did this, it frightened the female into the water.  

Each time, I waited patiently for her to come back onto the bank, then I would walk around her slowly, tossing grain. We danced back and forth for several minutes as I tried to place her on my right side, close enough to grab without startling her or upsetting the male. I knew I would have only one chance to get this right so my positioning had to be perfect.

Finally, with the male distracted, I tossed grain to her right - as she turned her head away from me, I pounced!

As soon as I hit the ground there was an enormous uproar as every bird in the vicinity took to the sky.

Enveloped in my arms, I carefully folded her wings, placed a pillow case over her head to calm her, and walked back to my vehicle where I then placed her into an animal carrier, lined with a large bath towel.

As I drove her to the wildlife hospital - the Wildlife Center of Silicon Valley, I couldn't help but feel optimistic. I had watched her put weight on the injured leg when she walked, and even run, with a limp. She could fly and, surprisingly, paddle. 

I try to be hopeful with every rescue, but with the severity of her injury, I knew the odds of her being euthanized were high. Once again, I found myself checking in with my emotions. Did I feel okay driving her to the wildlife hospital, knowing it would probably mean the end of her life, or should I have let her be, and "let nature take it's course?" 

I knew I was doing the right thing. She had definitely been experiencing pain, so I was okay knowing her suffering would be over soon, either way. 


Later that afternoon, I received the sad news that she was humanely euthanized.

This was a particularly frustrating case. Had we been notified of this bird's injury months ago, she would probably still be alive. It's a perfect example of the need for better and increased service. In the United States, very few communities have dedicated responders who physically perform rescues.


Wildlife hospitals and animal control agencies, for example, simply do not have the resources to send their people into the field on rescues, especially technical or time consuming rescues, and it's the animals that end up paying the price.


We desperately need to solve this problem. The goal must be for every community to have a resource it can call upon for emergencies involving wildlife. Just like we have emergency medical services for people, saving lives doesn't begin on the treatment table of an ER, but on scene of the accident. This same standard must be applied to wildlife.