Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Canadian Geese in Wisconsin Falls

No, I don’t mean the Dells. Whether you like them or not, Canada Geese are a big part of the fall landscape in southeastern Wisconsin. Large flocks descend on recently harvested corn fields and area lakes and streams. This is also the time of year when caring people will start to notice those unfortunate souls who get left behind.

Just today I answered a half dozen calls each regarding a different goose in similar situations. Our mission to rehabilitate any wild animal native to Wisconsin remains the same regardless of the time of year, but the calls and patients we get in the fall, especially the latter part of the season are some of the most difficult for both the animals as well as the people involved.

Of course each situation is different, but many have the same obstacles to overcome:

  • The goose spends most of its time on water where it is difficult or impossible for a human (or any other predator) to catch him
  • The goose can still run even when she does come out of the water making it easier for her to duck, dive and hide in the bushes where she’s safe from predators (us)
The other reason many of the calls we receive about geese this time of year are difficult is that injuries sustained a few weeks (in some cases even a few months) ago are unlikely to be repairable. If an injury is severe enough to keep a bird from doing what comes natural to it, namely flying, and it goes unnoticed and untreated for too long, the chance that we will be able to re-set it and convince it to heal properly is small. Due to regulations and the inability to survive if done so, we cannot generally just amputate the injured area. Even if we could, the animals overall health is often not good enough to ensure their survival through the process or follow-up care.

If you see a goose, duck or other type of waterfowl that you think needs help please gather the following information before contacting your nearest rehabilitator.

  • Where has the animal been seen most often and how near is it to water
  • What behaviors (holding out or dragging one wing, noticeably limping, unable to balance) are you witnessing that could help us pinpoint the injury
  • How close has a person walking been able to get to the animal before it responds (ie. tries to run away, dives into the water, or perhaps it can’t move at all)
With geese that aren’t yet approachable but are obviously injured the best situation would be for someone frequenting the area to offer up small tidbits of food like cracked corn, rolled oats or bird seed. This lulls the animal into a sense of security and will hopefully give that individual or one of our volunteers a better chance at getting close enough to contain the animal when it is up and away from the water's edge.
If you have any questions about an animal you think needs help always contact your local rehabilitator for advice and guidance.

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