Monday, December 6, 2010

Winter's Promise

(Picture left: Young woman photographing cooperative goose at Prospect Park lake on Saturday. Gaining trust of wild birds very important during times they may require help and assistance or actual rescue.)

This morning, the first few trickles of snow fell on NYC perhaps as a warning shot of "more to come" over the winter.

Temperatures have dropped to the 20's for the first time this season.

I am no expert, but I believe we may be in for a rougher winter this season compared to the warm winters that we have gotten used to over the past few years in New York City.

I base that speculation on the fact that so many birds have seemingly migrated out of New York.

Birds who have spent past winters here, such as robins and sparrows.

That of course may or may not mean anything.

I've just made sure to stock up on warm winter gear, including hats, gloves and warm, hooded jacket and boots.

I utilized the snow jacket last night when going to check on the "barnyard brigade" (Joey and BradAngelina) at Harlem Meer and the rest of the ducks, geese and one swan there.

So far, everyone is doing very well despite the below freezing temperatures and blustery winds. Nature seems to prepare the birds well with warm feathers and down.

Unfortunately, the wildlife is not doing so well at Prospect Park.

Recently, a sick swan had to be rescued by members of the public and medically attended to. A dead raccoon found last week tested positive for rabies. And for at least two weeks, a park goer has been trying to get help for a sick goose at Prospect Park -- so far, to no avail.

I saw the sick Prospect Park goose on Saturday when I went to Brooklyn to visit with friends. We went to the Prospect Park lake to meet up with the concerned park goer and another wildlife lover who also was trying to secure help and rescue for the goose.

The goose was very weak and lethargic. His feathers were all splayed out, like those of a very sick bird. And the fact, he was alone without flock mates by his side added to the certainty that this was a goose in a very dire situation.

I took videos and posted them to YouTube and our FB page:

There are however, many problems in trying to secure rescue, treatment and rehab for a sick or injured goose (or other bird) from our local parks.

For one matter, it is against the rules and law to "remove" wild birds from the park unless one is a licensed rehabilitator or Park Ranger (notwithstanding government-driven roundups and killings.) For another, even sick, weak or injured geese will still move around.
(You may see them in one location one day and the next day not see them at all.) This makes planning and securing a rescue and transport difficult.

Moreover, you need a bird experienced vet willing and able to treat the animal upon rescue. You need to have a rehabber willing to take bird if necessary following medical treatment.

Then of course there is the issue of transport (when one doesn't have a car) and proper ways and means of actually capturing a "wild" animal.

Rescuing a wild swan or goose is not the same as rescuing a stray kitten or dog. Rescues of most animals require some measure of experience and expertise. And rescue of wild animals especially needs a real plan -- especially for means of actual rescue, securement, transport and immediate medical help.

The last thing you want to do is end up stressing and terrorizing an already sick animal and failing in the rescue. Even experienced Park Rangers apparently have problems trying to rescue injured geese. For the inexperienced in bird rescue like myself and the other two concerned individuals, it was not within our means on Saturday to attempt a rescue and then have no means of getting the goose to a vet or even some way of safely securing the goose. None of us even had a car.

Under the circumstances, it was extremely difficult to see a suffering animal like this and be in no position to immediately help him. Park Rangers were of course notified about sick goose, but according to them, they were not able to find him when they claim to have looked.

Over the past few days, we have been getting the word out and seeking help. There is apparently a rehabber willing to take the goose and a vet willing to treat.

But, there is the matter of rescuing the goose and so far, he is proving elusive.

He was in a different location yesterday and was not seen at all today.

So, we don't even know if he is still at Prospect Park or even alive.

I now know where they get the expression, "Wild Goose Chase."

Moreover, all the harassment and destruction of Canada geese over the past few years, along with the signs in public parks admonishing those who dare to feed birds do not help.

It seem the only real way to capture "street wary" birds who can still fly and swim is to win their trust and connection.

But, we have not been doing a good job of that over the past few years.

Instead, many geese have learned to be wary of people, including the sick one at Prospect Park.

While I was able to get close enough to the suffering goose on Saturday to shoot video, he backed off when I attempted to offer cracked corn from my hand. He is obviously not used to be hand-fed by humans. (Or perhaps the problem was simply that he did not *know* me. I don't after all, live close to Prospect Park or have any relationship with this animal.)

Unfortunately, the lack of human trust makes the goose's rescue difficult. He might even be aware that humans are trying to get him, but to a harassed species like Canada geese, that cannot be good. Even in a debilitated and weakened state, their awareness is still very high and very much in tact.

Now, we could all be very philosophical about this and simply tell ourselves that winter is a cruel season and only the strong will ultimately survive it. That is, after all, the rule of nature.

But, its hard to tell yourself that when seeing first hand an animal who is clearly suffering and would benefit from some help.

And it is especially hard to tell yourself that when it isn't even officially "winter" yet. -- PCA


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