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PO Box 1037
Lynnwood WA, 98046

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15305 44th Ave W
Lynnwood, WA 98037

                                                                                                  June 29, 2005
Kevin Mack

Not Exactly a Wild Goose Chase
by Kevin Mack, PAWS Wildlife Naturalist

We first spotted her sometime during the winter. PAWS Humane Educator Julie Stonefelt and I were at Brackett's Landing Park in Edmonds, and the large, gray bird with bright orange feet stood out like a sore thumb. She looked lost and confused. She seemed to have no idea where she was or why she was there. Clearly she had been dumped very recently. Why someone thought Puget Sound would be a suitable home for a domestic Greylag Goose is beyond me; but there she was, alone and afraid on the edge of a vast stretch of saltwater. Our hearts went out to her, and we discussed different options for assisting her. In the end, we decided to call animal control in the hopes that they would capture the stray goose and send her to a more suitable setting. Time passed, and the goose remained at Brackett's Landing.

Goose
After living on the Edmonds Waterfront without
proper food and care for several months, the
goose developed discolored lesions on her bill.
Over the course of the next few months, we visited the Edmonds waterfront frequently, and saw that the goose had taken up with a group of local mallards. We presumed that she was surviving on the handouts of well-meaning humans, but we knew that her health was at risk on an inappropriate diet of bread and crackers washed down with salt water. After seeing the goose drink fresh water out of a cup that a woman was holding in front of her, Julie and I decided that we could probably lure her close enough to catch. We asked PAWS Wildlife Rehabilitator Peggy Faranda if she would mind having a new addition to the pond in her Snohomish backyard. Peggy agreed to take the goose. With the permission of Edmonds Animal Control, Julie, Peggy and I made plans to rescue the bird.

On May 21st, we met at Brackett's Landing. When we arrived, the goose was standing on the beach eating bread that had been tossed to her by a family having a picnic. As she finished the bread a group of four teenage girls chased her into the water. After putting a little distance between herself and the girls, the goose began swimming south along the shore, following a mallard that was doing the same. One of the girls started throwing pieces of carrot at the goose and mallard while her friends giggled. Julie, Peggy, and I failed to see the humor in attempting to pelt unsuspecting waterfowl with produce. We were more determined than ever to rescue the goose and send her to a place where she would receive proper care and no harassment.

Goose
Grace checks out her new home as a wild Green-
winged Teal floats nearby.
Peggy and Julie placed a large plastic pet carrier on the beach and the three of us discussed our plan to capture the goose. As we did so, we became very aware that the park was packed with people who had suddenly stopped what they were doing to look in our direction. The goose was now directly offshore from us, and still heading south. I handed a container of cracked corn to Julie, and she approached the water's edge sprinkling a little bit of the corn on the sand. The goose watched this closely, and after a moment's hesitation she swam to shore. The mallard came with her, and as the two birds exited the water they began eagerly gobbling up the corn. With a little coaxing and encouragement, the goose was soon eating corn straight from the container in Julie's hand.

As Julie gained the goose's trust, a little boy came from out of nowhere and stood beside her. He was clearly fascinated with the big bird, and I felt bad as I tapped him on the shoulder and asked him to please stand back a bit. The little boy grudgingly obliged, and I moved up next to Julie to see how the goose would react. The goose was very wary of me, and she moved back towards the water. Julie handed me the container of corn and I eventually convinced the goose that I was not such a bad guy after all. As the goose helped herself to a meal, Julie grabbed a sheet which she hoped to throw over the distracted bird. As Julie came back up beside me, the goose, perhaps getting full, seemed to be slowly losing interest in the corn. If we were going to catch her, we would have to act soon.

Goose
Grace helps herself to a plentiful supply of
waterfowl chow.
The goose began to grab corn from the container, and then walk back to the water to dabble. She still seemed to trust Julie a bit more than me, so Julie traded me the sheet for the container of corn. At this point, I looked behind me and realized that an even bigger crowd of spectators had materialized. Three people that were riding by on their bicycles had stopped to watch, and many pedestrians had appeared to supplement the already generous crowd on the beach. I turned back toward the goose, feeling more than a little conspicuous as I prepared to grab her.

I watched the goose take two or three trips from the corn container to the water's edge and back again. I was used to dealing with Canada Geese-birds that would open their wings and run flapping away from you with the slightest hint of unexpected movement. I was probably a little over-cautious with the domestic goose, but in the end, it paid off. Each time the goose arrived at the water, she lowered her head, and for a moment she could not see anything behind her. In one of these blind moments, I pounced. I intended to get the sheet over the bird's entire body and head, but I came up a bit short. The sheet fell over her body as I grabbed her and picked her up. Her neck and head were completely uncovered, but she seemed fairly calm. She didn't struggle at all. I was reminded again that I was dealing with a goose that was bred for generations to be comfortable around humans, not one of the wild and fiercely independent birds that I am used to working with. This was the very reason that we were on the beach trying to catch her. Domesticated animals don't belong in the wild any more than wild animals belong in a cage. Both situations generally lead to suffering for the animals involved.

Goose
"Auntie Grace" herds a stray
mallard duckling.
The goose simply looked at Julie, Peggy, and I as we placed her in the carrier. As the door closed, the crowd on the beach began to applaud. One of the cyclists yelled, "Dude! That was just like Crocodile Hunter!" He was apparently unaware that this was a major insult to a naturalist who is strongly against harassing wild animals for entertainment purposes. As Julie and Peggy loaded the goose into a waiting vehicle, I answered the questions of people on the beach who were concerned about her fate. After I explained that the goose was headed for a much more appropriate home, complete with a pond, nutritious food, and other birds with which to socialize, the universal response was, "Thank you so much for doing this!" I quickly discovered that many people had wanted to help the goose, but they felt powerless to do so. It was extremely encouraging to realize that so many people cared about the health and well-being of the animal.

So now the goose has returned from the wild, and is living a life to which she is far better suited. Peggy named her "Grace," and Grace seems quite content with her plentiful fresh water and all-you-can-eat buffet. However, some part of the wild may still call to Grace. Recently a mother mallard hatched a number of ducklings and brought them to Peggy's pond. Grace was quite taken with them and has been protecting the wild babies (and the mother) as if they were her own. Because of this she has already earned herself a nickname, "Auntie Grace."

Wild animals released between June 15 and June 28, 2005:

16 Virginia Opossums
3 Steller's Jays
3 Eastern Cottontails
1 Brewer's Blackbird
1 American Coot
39 Mallards
1 American Robin
1 Northern Flicker 9 Black-capped Chickadees

257 wild animals have been released since the beginning of 2005.

      All rights reserved. 2005 Progressive Animal Welfare Society