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August 14, 2008 
Photo of Kevin Mack.

Grace Helps Others Live the Wild Life
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

Longtime subscribers to Wild Again may remember the one and only issue of "PAWS Domestic Again" which came out on June 29, 2005. Titled "Not Exactly a Wild Goose Chase," the issue told the story of a domestic Graylag Goose who had been abandoned on an Edmonds Beach. After being rescued, the goose was adopted by PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitator Peggy Faranda. Now named Grace, the goose has been enjoying life in a pond on Peggy's Snohomish property for the past three years.

Shortly after being adopted by Peggy, Grace began to show signs that she had strong maternal instincts. She became very protective of baby wild Mallards that entered her pond and was often seen escorting them as they foraged. After two young Canada Geese were admitted to the wildlife center this summer, Peggy mentioned the possibility of placing the goslings on her pond where Grace would likely take them under her wing. We decided to give this idea a try as it would allow the geese to grow up in a much more natural setting. But would Grace accept them, and would they accept her? The following photos, taken by Peggy, tell the story.

The two goslings were old enough when they arrived at PAWS that they had already imprinted on their parents. Imprinting is a form of rapid, irreversible learning that some animals undergo during a stage of life known as the "critical learning period." Knowledge such as species identity, nest site selection and more may be ingrained for life during the imprinting process. For Canada Geese, imprinting happens fairly soon after hatching, usually within the first 24 – 48 hours. Although their potential surrogate mother was a Graylag Goose, the goslings' identity as Canada Geese was already permanently fixed in their minds. As this photo shows, they quickly showed their approval of Peggy's Pond when they were introduced to it.

At first the goslings seemed a little intimidated by Grace. Or, perhaps, it was the other way around.

After a brief adjustment period, Grace and the goslings warmed to one another. The goslings began to follow Grace, and she watched over them as if they were her own.

On water or on land, Grace and the goslings were never far apart.

In this photo, Grace extends her neck warning others to keep their distance from her young charges.

Ever-watchful, Grace stayed on her guard whenever the goslings were having a meal.

Here is another view of Grace's warning posture as she makes it clear that the goslings in her care are not to be touched.

The geese had plenty of grass on which they could graze, and they could do so without worry knowing that Grace was always right there keeping an eye out for danger.

The goslings grew quickly, and as their flight feathers began to emerge they regularly exercised their flight muscles.

In time, the goslings matured and began to fly, taking interest in other Canada Geese flying overhead. Eventually, they flew away from Peggy's pond and set off on their own. The success with these two goslings prompted us to employ Grace's services for seven additional orphans. She gladly took them on and they quickly warmed to her. So throughout the summer, a domestic Graylag Goose who had been rescued from the wild played an integral role in ensuring that other, truly wild geese, could return to the very place from which she had been rescued.

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A Northwest leader in protecting animals since 1967, the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) shelters homeless animals, rehabilitates injured and orphaned wildlife, and empowers people to demonstrate compassion and respect for animals in their daily lives.

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