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Wild goose chase

Susan and Biff Andrews

Late Friday afternoon there was a knock at our door. It was one of those knocks that let you know something isn’t right. It was our neighbor from three doors down. She was in a panic about a baby goose, part of a family of geese that have taken up residence in her yard. She explained that the little guy had a fishing lure about six inches in length caught on his leg and asked if we could do something to help. Of course we would help even though we weren’t quite sure how.

That is a tough request for two people who are pretty solid about nature taking its course and not really big on goose poop in the lake. Before us was the gray area where humans and nature collide requiring a mission of the heart. A fishing lure with three treble hooks and a little fuzzy gray baby goose is quite a collision if you are the little baby goose. The heartache is exponentially elevated when your neighbor has just suffered the loss of her husband a few days prior and is leading the charge for the rescue.

Unfortunately, we had to explain our lack of skill in this area, especially with birds, which are particularly prone to shock. If we tried to catch him and remove the lure the outcome probably wouldn’t be too good and we were in need of a good one. These things are best left to the experts.

So who do you call after 5 o’clock on a Friday evening? We weren’t sure. Our first suggestion was to call Suffolk Animal Control.Of course it’s after hours so our neighbor got a long message with a menu that would take hours. Somehow she was directed to the Virginia Beach SPCA. She got to talk to a human and explain the situation but, again it was going to take hours.

Being very anxious about the condition worsening as night was setting in and the goose family was going to take to the water we pressed on. There must be somebody in Suffolk! So we googled Bird rescue in Suffolk. Evelyn’s Wildlife Refuge popped up. We called the number and she got right back to us with a number for wildlife rehabilitator Tommy White. You may have read about him in The Suffolk News Herald’s Suffolk Living Magazine.

Goose rescue is not his specialty but compassion is. Mr. White was here in about 15 minutes. He had just returned from an 18-hour road trip, no doubt to rescue a large raptor in some far-flung place. He was able to catch the little goose in a big net within a few minutes while our neighbor kept the goose parents and his sibling away. Mr. White gently held the baby goose telling it to “be still,” which it did while he removed the hook that was stuck in his elbow and then removed another hook from the webbing of his foot. It was a very gentle procedure; luckily the wounds were superficial. A little raw honey on the affected areas and off to release the little guy.

So down to the lake with our little fuzzy friend, into the water, he swam like a shot to his family and friends from Canada who were honking and cheering. Then he lifted his proud little chest out of the water and flapped his wings as if to say yippee and maybe a little high five (feathers) to our neighbor and Tommy White for having a lot of heart.

Fast forward to Tuesday: Goose family is swimming happily around the lake. Good outcome for the goose and the humans!

SUSAN and BRADFORD “BIFF” ANDREWS are retired teachers and master naturalists who have been outdoor people all their lives, exploring and enjoying the woods, swamps, rivers and beaches throughout the region for many years. Email them at b.andrews22@live.com.