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The Homecoming by Megan Mosby (a sample article from Wingbeats)

In this business we try not to assign human characteristics to animals — a professional no-no related to what we do, but sometimes the facts defy this ‘scientific’ notion. One such story follows.

Many have heard the tale of the goose that was shot out of the air, landing in the lake dying, while its mate flew down and stayed with it as the rest of the flock migrated on along their predetermined path. The mate stayed as long as the wounded bird was alive and then very reluctantly flew off in hopes of catching up with the flock. An urban myth …who knows? The following story, however, is well documented.

Released Canada Goose

Liberty Wildlife volunteer, Claudia, was dispatched to a lake in the far west part of the Valley to assist in the capture of what appeared to be an injured Canada Goose.

Geese, and water fowl in general, are difficult to catch because they can fly, swim, and run. They have to be in pretty bad condition to be rounded up. This particular goose had fallen prey to the insidious effects of monofilament line. It seems every body of water contains this wildlife hazard.

It silently snakes around beaks, necks, wings, and legs. If the strand is allowed to remain, it can cut into tissue damaging ligament, muscle, and bone. Around the neck or beak it can cause slow starvation. As it tightens it cuts to the bone, often resulting in infection and ultimately death.

Happy to be home

This goose was lucky, as the situation was noticed early and dealt with before too much damage had been done. Our rescue volunteer and a park ranger were able to make the capture. In order to limit any struggling, the goose was wrapped in a sheet held together with duct tape so that it could make the trip across town to Liberty Wildlife without further damage.

Because of the fast action, the triage procedure found that the injuries were minimal. The monofilament line was removed and the injuries treated. In most situations it is best to get the animal in and out as soon as possible. This goose was ready to be released in less than a week. Here’s where the story gets better.

Our dedicated volunteer gathered up the recovered goose and trekked back across town to the lake. Upon arrival she noticed that, as before, there were about 200 geese arranged in what looked like four “family flocks” scattered around the lake, all doing the Canada Goose thing … swimming around looking for food, preening, and hanging out.

The park ranger was there for the release and two folks from the public stopped by to see what was going on. As always with Liberty Wildlife releases, they were invited to stick around to watch the successful culmination of the rehabilitation process. They were given a brief education about what Liberty Wildlife does and why.

Claudia opened the carrier and released the goose into the water. Perfect. Looking around the lake at all the geese, he gave an inquisitive honk … fine … a good sign. Then from across the lake a goose in one of the “family flocks” started to honk. First it was one little “honk” which was followed by a response from our releasee. One contagious “honk” led to another “honk,” and to the amazement of the onlookers the goose conversation turned into a chorus of calls and responses.

The interesting part is that only one group got into it. There was silence from the other three groups. “HONK, HONK, HONK,” blasted back from the vocal family, and then an excited response was heard from our guy. With a flurry of activity the calling flock across the lake began to assemble on the shore with much flapping and excitement. Waddles, flaps, and honking created a sense of urgency. No mistake about it, this was a purposeful gathering of the geese.

The releasee started to paddle straight in the direction of the vocal ones — healed injuries forgotten — as fast as he could with absolutely no interest in the silent groups. When the paddling wasn’t fast enough, he lifted his heavy body out of the water with wings beating furiously against the surface. He became airborne, then landed just offshore from the honkers. He hit the water, running, flapping and sort of flying, all motion modalities engaged simultaneously, until he found himself swallowed up in the middle of the welcome home celebration. Okay, I know I have just stepped over the line of “scientific,” but that is what the crowd of people saw across the lake.

It was clear that this group was eagerly accepting our rehabbed goose back into the flock. It was clear through the tears in the onlookers’ eyes, without a word being spoken, that this goose had been given a second chance and was home, back where he belonged with family. And, it was clear to the humans that they had witnessed something special. No urban myth here.

It is enough to say that we will always try to return an animal to its home territory if it is safe and possible. This is just one such story. But there are others that lead us to believe that they know … somehow they just know.