Conservation Minnesota

A Goose Named Webster

After his barking dog alerted him, a friend of mine recently discovered a lone gosling behind his business. The gosling, who had clearly been separated from his flock, ran right up to my friend. Not sure what to do, he leaned down and picked up the friendly bird. Initially, he couldn’t tell if this was a duck or a goose, but after some internet research he decided it was a Canada goose. He went to the hardware store to buy a kiddy pool and a friend gave him some chicken feed. He called me shortly thereafter to share the story of his new friend. I asked if he’d contacted a wildlife expert or someone who could tell him what to do. He admitted that he hadn’t and that he knew it was probably against the law to keep the bird, yet he felt that if he hadn’t taken him in, the gosling would have been hit by a car or eaten by a neighborhood cat within a short time.

In the meantime, he named the goose “Webster” and flocks of people stopped by to visit the little fluffball swimming in the kiddy pool behind the business. There was something so adorable and appealing about Webster and everyone who met him was immediately smitten. I knew it would be hard for my friend to let the goose go, but it was obvious that it was wrong to keep him.  I asked “what will happen in the winter?” You can hardly move a Canada goose into your house or garage once it got cold.

I knew my friend needed some advice and so I called the DNR’s area wildlife office. A very helpful officer explained that under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 it is illegal to capture or keep any migratory bird. I asked what my friend could do since the goose wouldn’t just walk away and, even if he did, he would have a very limited chance of survival. She suggested that we bring Webster to a flock of geese so that they could teach him necessary life skills. She explained that without these skills, Webster would be the easiest prey out there.  She also said that once he began to fly, Webster would fly away from his kiddie pool and be as vulnerable as ever. I asked if the geese would accept him and she told me that they would. Then, I asked where we might be able to find such a flock and she recommended any nearby body of water. She also told me about wildlife bird rehabilitators in the area and statewide, but even if Webster was injured she didn’t think they’d be interested in helping him. I thanked her for the information and the advice and called my friend. He took the news very well and admitted that he’d known all along that this relationship would be short-term. We discussed nearby bodies of water and put a plan together to release Webster back into the wild. I told him that I would help.

Two days later my friend put Webster in a cat carrier and my husband, both my sons, my friend, his dog and his brother and I piled into a pick-up truck to reunite Webster with his kind. We drove to the lagoons south of Hallock where we had been told geese frequented. We walked a ways and then set the carrier down and opened the door. Webster waddled right out and climbed into the water. His swim was brief and he quickly joined us on shore. There were no other geese in sight. It was clear at that point that Webster’s emancipation might be tougher than we’d realized. We said our good-byes, turned around and began the walk back to the truck. Webster closely followed. I jokingly told the kids, “Don’t make eye contact.” Poor Webster did not want to be left behind. If geese can run, that is what Webster was doing. We reached the fence where we’d parked the vehicle and our wild friend was right there with us. We had failed. So, we put the cat carrier on the ground and he climbed right in. He spend another night in civilization.

The next morning my husband and older son picked up Webster in his carrier to bring him to a pond near Lake Bronson, where my husband had spotted a flock of Canada geese days before. They drove to the area with the geese and my husband and 14 year old lugged the carrier with Webster out to a field. They set it down, opened the door, ran and hid behind a tree so Webster couldn’t follow. They watched Webster poke his head out, look around and then cautiously emerge from the kennel

My husband, then approached the geese nearby running with his arms outstretched. There were young geese approximately Webster’s age so he knew that they couldn’t just fly away. Through his strange behavior, running while flapping his arms (can you imagine this?) he led those geese right up to Webster. Webster got swallowed up into the crowd and began running with them up a hill. Once they were safely out of distance, my husband grabbed the carrier and headed for the car. The next day, he visited the area to check on Webster.  He saw no lone goose and so it appeared that Webster had joined the flock and our efforts had been a success.

All of us who got to know Webster look at Canada geese more fondly now. There’s also talk of adopting a duck (legally) or even putting up a chicken coop. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happened. Webster’s name comes up often in our conversations and we wonder where he is and how he’s doing. We feel fortunate that he wandered into our lives.

About Kristin Eggerling

Kristin Eggerling
Kristin Eggerling is the mother of two and a freelance writer in northwestern Minnesota. She most recently worked in the public health field as the administrator for Quin Community Health Services which serves the counties of Kittson, Marshall, Pennington, Red Lake and Roseau.
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