A lone Canada Goose has taken up summer residence at Pearl Lake.
In early summer I thought the goose was taking an overlong break before eventually joining its companions. But then I noticed how its left wing was at an odd angle, jutting away from its body as if arrested mid-ruffle. It seemed the goose was stranded, unable to fly.
Despite the injured wing, the goose is an elegant bird, whether resting on the shore or gliding through the water. A snow-white band from chin to cheeks sets off its sleek black head and long, gracefully curved neck. The lower neck and chest are a soft whitish-gray that merges into the grayish-brown body. Sometimes the goose would be near the dock where I launch my paddle board, strolling the shore on slender black legs, curious, but keeping its distance.
Although I’d encounter the goose most often at the dock cove, it seemed to enjoy other areas as well. I glimpsed it at the campground and at the private property on the northwest corner of the lake. Most likely it traveled around by swimming, making good use of those strong webbed feet.
Heading for the water also seemed to be good safety protocol. One morning the chainsaws (fire mitigation by the Forest Service) started up in full-force as I was finishing my paddle. It sounded like a gigantic swarm of angry bees on steroids. As I neared the dock, I could see the goose hanging out in the center of the cove, well away from shore, on the lookout for whatever attack might be coming from the horrible sound. Smart goose.
When early-morning temps dropped to below freezing, I wondered what would happen to the goose this winter. I contacted the Steamboat Lake Visitors Center. They explained that there is no rescue for the goose, no policy to remove injured animals. The hope is that the goose will survive the winter on its own. They told me about a fox with an injured leg. The kids that found the fox were worried about it; the fox survived the winter on its three working legs and was seen again the following spring. That’s terrific for the fox, I thought, but foxes do not fly south for the winter so the situation with the goose is different, and perhaps more dire.
In the last couple of weeks I haven't seen the goose. Since it is dark when I am starting out, perfect for star-gazing but not goose-spotting, I might be missing it. Due to hunting season, there are now more early-morning vehicles in the cove parking, so perhaps the goose is avoiding the increased activity? Or maybe with the much colder mornings it has taken up residence on some other waterfront real estate on Pearl. I hope that the goose is okay. I hope it will figure out with its own wild instincts how to manage. And I hope that it will survive in the months to come.
Jacqueline Denny, ACC, CHPC, LMT