How Precarious This Life We Share.
The picture accompanying this story is a newborn gosling who upon arriving wandered slightly from the nest and was bitten by a snapping turtle roughly the size of New Jersey leaving a rather nasty open abdominal wound for his efforts. I heard the hysterical peeping and opened my window to come face to face with this turtle who, if turtles had them, was smacking his lips waiting for another course. I brought out my hand dolly and carted the bloated terrapin off to the lake from whence he came. There are copious numbers of them and you can see their heads bobbing in the lake waters waiting for goslings and ducklings to wander off in the water alone. They grab their little feet and pull them under until they drown and then eat them.
Because this little injured no-name of a gosling was mauled by an unknown and completely foreign entity, the mother and father abandoned the gosling in favor of protecting what was left of the eggs that were beginning to hatch. You see, these are the babies from the eggs under my window. I gathered the little one up and put him in a box with some warm cloths and headed on out for the 45 mile trip to the Wild Care Oklahoma sanctuary for wildlife. They cleaned him up and got some vet care and put him in the premie bird nursery for waterfowl. He shared a room with a duckling. This took place a week ago this past Thursday. On Saturday, I heard that the gosling was doing as well as can be expected but made it through the weekend.
In the meantime, three more eggs hatched, so Franklin Beauregard and his mate Hannah have 3 live gosling with them. Three eggs were used as soccer balls by a troup of 5 german shepherd puppies, and one didn't hatch. One was in ICU.
Life has a way of being mundane and then out of the blue, it knocks your head sidways with unexpectations. This week everyday, Frank and Hannah, Henry and Millie, and others bring their babies around for me to see and to grab a bite to eat. Henry and Millie are a hybrid couple with 3 hybrid goslings who are about 2 weeks older than Frank's brood. Frank is a white domestic and Hannah is hybrid. Everyday.
The day before on Friday, I was feeding everyone and noticed a Canada goose limping very badly. To say limping is to do this wound injustice. He was hopping mostly on one foot. Around his right leg, just above where the leg meats the thigh a length of fishing line was wrapped so tightly around his leg, that the part of his thigh below the line resemble a small Krispy Kreme doughnut. He was, to say the least, in dire trouble. My neighbor and I once again caught the goose, but on examination up close, we found that the line had been there much too long and it was much too deep for us to cut it. Chester, as we called him looks to be a young male. There was one particular goose very distraught when we caught Chester who is probably the mate or the mother.
The tragic part of this story is that I called the state game warden for this county and actually got to talk to him. I told him our dilemma and he said when we cought the goose to call him back and he would come and get the goose. Right. We did it and called but all I got was voice mail or the opportunity to page. I did both with this gentleman, the other warden, the county sheriff office who referred me to the city police who said they would see if anyone would pick him up but that they would probably just euthanize the goose anyway.
So nobody ever called back and the sanctuary had no one to send so Chester spent the night on my patio. In the morning I transported him down to the Wild Care of Oklahoma sanctuary where I had taken the gosling. They worked and worked on his leg, but kept finding more and more line. His tissue was somewhat necrotic the closer they got to the deeply embedded part. They gave him a big dose of antibiodics and told me they would continue to work on the leg until all of the line was released and they could better tell what was ahead for Chester. He was so stressed out at this point I think you could have shot him and he wouldn't have moved.
So Chester is on the surgery ward at the center. I asked after the no-name gosling and she said she was sorry but he had passed away last night.
You would think after 35 years in nursing I would get used to this cycle of life but no. I cried all the way home. At least the gosling died by nature. But Chester may very well lose a leg due strictly to careless human fishing habits. They do not follow the line if it gets cought in the trees or bushes or someone's patio furniture. They snap is off and let it go. Or it breaks in the water or more than likely snagged a non-fish and they cut the line leaving it floating in the water.
I am very tired this evening and when I went out to feed the masses, they were pretty stand-off-ish I guess because of Chester. Sometimes they really surprise me when something ghastly happens to one of them. They do go for one another's throats on a routine basis, but if the casualty results in human intervention, they suddenly become the most quiet cohesive group likely to be encountered on the lake.
I was listening yesterday to a public radio broadcast. The host was interviewing an epidemiologist from NIH about the progression of the bird flu. There was mention that it seems to break out in small groups then subside for awhile. But they expected more and more groups of humans will be affected on each outbreak until it becomes large enough to become an epidemic then a pan epidemic. Mention was made that perhaps the earlier SARS outbreaks were in fact early kinds of bird flu. I am sitting there as I listened to them say they think but don't know anything really. I was thinking about this huge population of fowl around this lake. And what would happen when the flu hits the western hemisphere. I have become pretty attached to many of these creatures with their unique personalities and predictabilities. Although, nothing is static with the community. This evening when I returned from the sanctuary, Franklin Beauregard and Hannah came up hissing the whole way while I am wondering if they, too, were upset about Chester. Then I noticed. They came with only 2 of the babies. Where was the 3rd? I'll probably never know. It is not easy at all for these birds to proliferate. They lay 8-9 eggs and are lucky to come up with 4-5 hatchlings. Not good odds. Then you have to raise them without losing any. I suppose one can learn valuable lessons from nature including the fact that life goes on with or without your assistance, bad things happen a lot but so do good things, don't look back in regret but always look forward to keep from stumbling, and know which side of the bread is buttered.
The following is a link to a small slide show in honor of the little No-Name gosling and his short life.
Consider donating time or money to your local animal rescue or wildlife rescue.
(originally published 7/6/06)