Jun 2, 2014

Amazing goose rescue

Image credit Grove Pashley.

On May 21st, WES was contacted by Joe Shalmoni - a photojournalist in Los Angeles. He was referred to us by the California Wildlife Center for help with an injured Canada goose he'd seen at the Inglewood Park Cemetery the day before.

Image credit Joe Shalmoni.

Joe was covering the burial services for LAPD Detective Ernest L. Allen. After the service, Joe felt an urge to visit the ground's pond, the Lake of Memories.

There, among a procession of healthy waterfowl, Joe noticed a Canada goose limping badly. 

It had a terrible fishing line injury. Its leg was bound in line and its foot was very swollen. 

For Joe, it was as though fate had brought him there to the cemetery and to the goose. He knew he had to do something, so he started phoning for help.

After calling various local agencies and animal organizations and getting nowhere, Joe finally reached WES. Our founder, Rebecca Dmytryk, took the call.

Joe was very passionate about rescuing this goose, which was great. He was willing to do whatever it took. So, I instructed him to go back to the location with some grain and crumbles to see if the goose would "bait in". This helps us develop a capture strategy.
Image credit Joe Shalmoni.

Joe's notes from the field:
Thursday May 21st I went to the area where the goose hangs out and he/she was not there. I searched the ENTIRE cemetery. I interviewed the security guard (Joe), and he was very helpful, telling me he didn't hear of anything happening to our injured friend last night. I was informed, however, that Animal Control had been there a week ago and tried for 1-2 hours to capture the goose. They left, saying as long as it could walk (though limping), and fly, and they couldn't capture it, the injured bird was free to remain. On your advice, I warned everyone to absolutely not approach him with any kind of net. More tomorrow Rebecca, Sincerely, Joe

Friday May 22nd I went back to the cemetery this afternoon and drove to the Lake of Memories. As I got out of my car the geese flew over in formation, landed, and joined the conference of other waterfowl at my feet. Our injured friend landed 10' away from me. I was so relieved to see it was still alive.
Observations of the wounded goose and gaggle-mates: 
The wounded goose is there with his/her gaggle daily at least from 12:15pm to 1:45pm - I observed this on 2 separate days. 
They leave between 2:30pm-6:30pm when another group of Canada geese arrives, and that second gaggle stays through sunset. 
The wounded one stays on the periphery of his/her gaggle (total 8 adults including him). 
Initially the wounded goose landed close. It exhibited very cautious curiosity, then, as if aware of its handicap, it took to the periphery of the group of waterfowl and remained about 35-40 feet away.   
I worked on gaining its trust, and eventually got it to come closer, about 8 feet away. This trust-building process took 30 minutes. 
Helpful points:  Wonderful, cooperative cemetery staff including gardeners, administrators, security guards. 

Joe kept up his diligent monitoring of his beloved goose and kept searching for someone to help. He called every possible rescue organization in the Los Angeles area and none was able to assist him, though Peter Wallerstein from Marine Animal Rescue said he would try if he had a break in seal rescues.

At one point Joe volunteered to fly WES' Goose Whisperer, Deanna Barth, to Los Angeles to try and capture the poor bird. Before going to that length, though, Rebecca asked that they first exhaust all Los Angeles-based options. She reached out to Grove Pashley, owner and field kayaking guide for LA River Kayak Safari

Rebecca had worked with Grove on capturing a great blue heron on the L. A. River, back in December. Click HERE for the story. He showed talent for reading animals and she believed he had the skill to successfully capture this goose. She called to recruit him.

It was a very busy time for Grove, but he agreed to devote a couple of hours to the rescue. 

On Sunday, May 25th, the two met up near the cemetery grounds and drove onto the property in one car. 

The plan was to try a snare made of fishing line, first, to see if the goose could be lured or "pushed" into it. A net was not an option, as geese typically spook at the first sign of one.

Grove laid a loop of line on the grass and the two men attempted to lure the goose close. It spied the line cautiously and stayed clear of it. They tried again, and again, with no luck. 

At one point, during a break in rescue attempts, a man carrying a multi-colored blanket appeared and started walking toward the injured goose, tossing large chunks of bread to distract it. It was the Embalmer. He works in the back of the mortuary, somewhat isolated, but comes out to visit the goose on his lunch hour. He had been wanting to help the goose for a long time.

With the grounds bustling with visitors and the goose wise to the snare, the team decided to call it a day. Grove went home to practice with the net gun he acquired for the heron rescue, to see if he felt comfortable using it on the goose.

The next day, Joe visited the cemetery again, and this time he could not get the goose to bait in. It seemed as though all the waterfowl were quite satiated from the holiday weekend feedings.

On Wednesday morning, Grove and Joe met at the cemetery. To their surprise, there were no geese, not a one. They waited and waited. They took a breakfast break and went back to the Lake of Memories. The scoured the area, checking nearby parks. Nothing.
Thursday May 29th I visited the cemetery this evening at 7:30pm and saw the goose. He/she appeared robust, but was ground-sitting more. Perhaps its resting its poor good leg upon which all her body weight rests. I noticed, this good leg (because of the added strain, and biometric imbalance), shakes at the knee as she/he stands and walks.
While ground-sitting, sometimes the head is turned to the sleep position, but the eyelids are never closed. 
Grove and I will rendezvous at the cemetery on Monday, June 2nd, given that I spot him/her in the early morning. I hope I find him/her then.
Today, June 2nd, Joe arrived at the cemetery to look for the wounded goose. He found her, and noted the limp seemed worse and that she was ground-sitting more than usual. He alerted Grove immediately.

Grove arrived within 25 minutes with the net gun. He and Joe assessed the situation and walked through the capture plan. Oddly, there were no other geese around, only a few ducks - this would work in their favor.

They would have to first "push" the ducks out of the way to get a clear shot with the net gun, then Joe would have to distract the goose with crumbles while Grove moved into position, 20' away from her. Grove warned Joe it would be fast - the second she puts her head down to feed, he'll fire.

Grove separated the ducks to one side while Joe got the attention of the goose, baiting her with crumbles of grain.

Grove, his heart pounding in his chest, casually positioned himself behind her. He'd have only one shot to catch her with the net gun. 

Her head went down. He fired.

The net opened up perfectly and blanketed the goose's body. 

Terrified, the goose turned, took a few steps and with a few wing beats she was in the air!

Joe and Grove watched in disbelief as the goose climbed with a slow arch into the air and across the Lake of Memories, trailing the net. Grove took off!

Sprinting across the grounds, Grove watched as the goose descended, and touched down on a plaque. He was on top of her in seconds.

Image credit Joe Shalmoni.
Joe wasn't far behind with the crate and scissors. 

Instead of untangling the goose, which would have taken too long and would have been too stressful for the animal, they carefully cut away the netting then placed the goose inside a pet carrier for transport to the wildlife hospital. 

Joe and Grove cut away the netting. Image credit: the Groundskeeper

Image credit Joe Shalmoni.

Image credit Grove Pashley.

Joe transported the goose to aquatic bird experts, International Bird Rescue, in San Pedro - about 30 minutes south. There, the bird was seen by medical staff who removed the line and lure, cleaned the wound and radiographed the leg.

According to veterinarian Rebecca Duerr, the bird stands a 50/50 chance of recovering. If, after treatment, the heavy-bodied bird can maintain function of its foot - if it can stand and walk, the goose will be releasable. If its tendons and nerves are so damaged that it cannot, then the goose will have to be euthanized as eventually the other leg would give out and it would suffer miserably.

From Joe:
Rebecca, I have rarely seen expertise, dedication and commitment akin to the successful actions exhibited by Grove yesterday. It was truly amazing.  He ran after that Goose like a sprinter in the Olympics. 
I am sure it would have taken off again if he hadn't caught it. It was a rare moment in time showing love between human and non-human life forms.  It wasn't easy, it took tremendous courage on Grove's behalf, he basically walked into the fire to save that Goose. 
Incredible. Watching it in flight with the net was almost like seeing eons of time, evolution, and the power of life... all expressed in seconds.

Image credit Joe Shalmoni.

A huge HIGH FIVE! to Grove for his successful capture. 
Way to go! Bravo, bravo, bravo!!!

A huge THANK YOU! to Joe for your dedication and the
 time and effort you put in to see this bird was rescued. 

Joe dreams of documenting the annual seal hunt on Prince Edward Island. 
Perhaps someone reading can make his wish come true?

If you'd like to become a volunteer Wildlife First Responder click HERE to apply.

If you'd like to support our Los Angeles team with a donation towards supplies, gasoline, training, and equipment, click HERE.

Stay tuned for updates!


Lindsay said...

Wow! Rebecca, this is a perfect story to share with ALL the animal control officers who say that a flighted bird cannot be rescued. Is there a animal control news publication? And I bet you and Joe can get this story published in the media so that many more people who think a flighted bird cannot be rescued. It's a great story, with great photos and a great ending. Given that she makes it through rehab. Thank you so much for your persistence in helping in situations like these. You're an inspiration!

Anonymous said...

Please keep us posted on the recovery of this goose.

Patricia said...

The dedication, determination and creativity shown by all involved in this rescue are inspiring!