Feb 25, 2012

Wild goose at Meeker Creek

Photo by A. Jensen
We want to acknowledge the tremendous amount of caring and effort that went in to helping this injured goose at Meeker Slough.

We were first alerted of this bird's predicament by International Bird Rescue on February 13th. A local resident of Marina Bay Harbor reported seeing a goose with a badly injured wing. This being the second animal he'd found in distress in the last few months - he shared his frustration with there not being a dedicated wildlife rescue service available.
My concern with these two examples is the complete frustration I have felt with the lack of organized rescue entities, public, private or non-profit within the entire San Francisco bay environs. 
WildRescue immediately alerted its local responders. Rachel was quick to accept the mission. She was escorted by the finder to the location. There, she found an adult Canada goose alongside its mate, appearing in good shape except for its right wing, which looked to be broken. With its 'wrist' broken, the primary feathers drooped, occasionally dragging the ground. The gooses flicked her wing every once in awhile, seemingly bothered by it.

A drawing of the area by Rachel
helped plan out the next capture.
A plan was made. The goose would be captured so that the wing injury and the bird's overall condition could be evaluated.

The first attempt was unsuccessful, the goose made back into the water before she could be netted, but, as with all captures, successful or not, the responders learn invaluable lessons that hone their skills.

While planning the next capture attempt, there was discussion about the bird's fate, should the wing be irreparable. 

Wildlife rehabilitators are licensed under state and federal permits that authorize them to possess, treat, and return animals to the wild. Animals must be free of disease, their wildness must be intact, and they must be capable of surviving - in other words, they must be able to find food and fend for themselves. If a bird loses its ability to fly, rehabilitators are required to either humanely euthanize the animal or place it in captivity.

The outcome for this goose, then, was grim. However, there was another option - the goose was more or less an urbanized bird. She seemed to be fairing well, other than the wing, roaming the park and field with what appeared to be her life-mate at her side. Perhaps the best thing was to let her be.

After consulting with experts, the decision was made to capture her and quickly evaluate the injury. Was it an old wound, was it infected? Was the bird thin, or in good body condition? If it looked as though she needed medical attention, she would be taken to International Bird Rescue for further evaluation and treatment. There, they have some of the most highly skilled bird rehabilitators and avian veterinarians in the world.

It was planned, then, that on Friday, Winnie, one of our lead responders in Richmond, would capture the goose and perform a field triage. 

In the meantime, WildRescue's director, Rebecca Dmytryk, contacted the permitting offices of the California Department of Fish and Game and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, asking if they would consider allowing this particular bird to be returned to its home and mate, even if the wing cannot be repaired - even if the wingtip must be amputated.

She received approval! This was tremendous news! 

On Friday, around midday, Winnie successfully captured the goose. She quickly examined the wing and found it to be infected. The bird needed medical attention right away. Winnie transported the goose to Bird Rescue, in Cordelia, some 30 miles away.

Later on, we received word that the infection was very, very bad. It had taken most of the wing and there was no way to salvage it, even through amputation. This was a very sad moment for everyone involved. The goose was humanely euthanized.

We want to thank those who cared enough to report the injured goose, and our team of volunteer responders who spent a great deal of time on this rescue. We also want to thank the experts at International Bird Rescue for their time and for considering all options to do what is best for the individual. We are also want to extend a special Thank You to the resource agencies for granting special permission to release this individual bird - demonstrating their compassion and progressive thinking. THANK YOU!

In closing, we want to address the finder's concern and frustration over the lack of a dedicated wildlife response entity. We cannot agree more - there is none, and we intend to remedy this. Since last September, when a goose with two fractured legs waited three days to be rescued, we have been working on a plan that would provide San Francisco and surrounding communities with a dedicated Bay Area Wildlife Ambulance, available 24/7. To earmark a contribution for this cause, please click HERE.

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