Monday, September 17, 2012

When to Call the Doctor (for a Canada Goose)?

(Photo:  Danny at Harlem Meer yesterday.  Hanging in there and adapting to difficult circumstances?)

Trying to get a better gage on the situation with Danny (the seemingly obstructed Canada goose at Harlem Meer) as well as the general waterfowl circumstances, I have been visiting the Meer at different times of the day (or night).

Yesterday, I went shortly before dusk.

It was a perfect late summer day and it was a Sunday, thereby resulting in much human activity around the lake.

There were kids riding bikes along the pedestrian paths, people walking dogs, fisherman and lovers strolling.

I immediately spotted Danny in the water near the south embankment.

As much as I tried to entice him on the bank, he remained cautiously in the water.

I normally don't like to toss food in water, but in this case, there was little choice.

Once again, Danny was interested, but unable to actually eat anything out of my hand.

However, when tossing some cracked corn in the water directly in front of him, Danny lowered his head and made sweeping motions towards it.

While I cannot be certain, it is hoped that Danny was able to swoop up some of the drifting corn in the water.

Somehow, despite whatever is causing the difficulties in eating, Danny is hanging in there.

Watching Danny yesterday, I wondered if I acted prematurely in trying to secure rescue and help for him the day before?

As previously noted, Park Rangers are not suitably equipped (such as with rocket nets) for rescue of Canada geese (and other large birds) while the birds are still capable of flying and/or have not "given up."

In June of 2010 for example,  there was a Canada goose who had been shot with an arrow at Prospect Park.  The arrow pierced the goose's neck, causing distress not only to the goose, but horror to park goers, resulting in coverage by the New York Times:

Naturally, Park Rangers were called to rescue the goose, (then named, "Target," ) but as was the experience this past Saturday with Danny, the Rangers were unable to capture Target as he was able to escape repeated rescue attempts.

Miraculously, Target was able to remove the arrow himself a short time later!

However, the real tragedy was that Target was then rounded up with 367 other geese at Prospect Park on July 8th of 2010 and gassed.

Even a "celebrity goose" was not safe from a USDA roundup and mass killing.

In July of this year, while going through the molt, Mama goose at the Boat Lake was a sorry sight to most park visitors.

Her wings drooped and literally dragged along the ground giving the appearance that both wings were broken.  Additionally, Mama's feathers were far more disheveled than most geese going through the molt.

Many people were concerned when seeing Mama.   But, both Lianna (another bird lover) and I assured others that Mama was going through the molt and was otherwise healthy and eating.   She did not require rescue -- at least at that point -- as she had her family and plenty of food available.

However, neither Lianna nor I expected that from her appearance, Mama would ever be able to fly again.  Her wings simply did not look normal -- even for a goose going through the molt.

However, as the weeks wore on and the geese began to grow in their flight feathers, Mama's wings improved in appearance.

To the utter shock of Lianna and I, Mama was able to fly out from the Boat Lake with the rest of her family following the end of the molting season.

So the question remains, "When to call for rescue help for a goose and when not?"

This is not an easy question to answer considering the amazing resiliency, adaptability and sheer survival instincts of Canada geese, (as well as lack of proper capture equipment supplied to Park Rangers). 

As someone who was in cat and dog rescue for more than 20 years, I always considered  lack of appetite and/or inability to eat the absolute "red flags" for a speedy trip to the vet.

I obviously thought the same when noting a goose who (for whatever reason), was and is unable to eat normally.

But, geese are not cats, dogs or humans.

They in fact, seem to exist in a world all their own -- a world with little need for human intervention and help.

One of the possible exceptions to this are geese with broken wings or the birth defect condition known as "Angel Wing" which renders them permanently flightless.

But, even with Angel Wing, geese can be amazingly resilient.

One of the goslings of Mama and Papa in 2010, had Angel Wing, an incurable condition where both wings stick out comically from the body and occasionally drag along the ground.

I (and others) were very concerned for "Binky" -- especially, when at only 3 months of age, Binky  was left at Turtle Pond to fend for himself when the rest of the family had to take natural flight.

Although Mama and Papa returned several times with the family to Turtle Pond to presumably "check" on their disabled youngster, they could not neglect the normal parental duties of teaching the other youngsters flight and migration patterns.

Incredibly,  Binky survived as a "lone" gosling on Turtle Pond for several months following the summer.   As long as there were ducks, open water and food available, even a "baby" flightless Canada goose was able to survive.  

However, Turtle Pond freezes over in winter and the mallards all leave.

That is when the Central Park Conservancy and Park Rangers (thankfully) were able to successfully rescue Binky and they reportedly sent him to an upstate farm to live out his life.

A flightless gosling cannot survive alone on a frozen lake or pond and under those circumstances requires human help.

But, after observing Canada geese for several years now, it doesn't seem there are too many other circumstances where they actually require human help (unless of course shot or attacked and wounded by a predator).

Canada geese are incredibly resilient creatures and most of all, they do not easily "give up" -- even when wounded and severely challenged.

Perhaps it is my imagination or wishful thinking, but it seems over these past few days, that even Danny is slowly figuring means of survival in his otherwise, difficult and challenging medical circumstances.  -- PCA