Guest Blogger: Ronnie James "Not so Wild Goose Chase"

I've known Ronnie James for 20 years. When I was president of our local Audubon chapter, I would get frantic calls almost daily from people about injured birds. It's how I got into doing a bit of rehab myself, especially baby birds. For hawks, owls, pelicans, turkey vultures and baby mammals, I'd call Ronnie. She has a million stories, many of which are in her wonderful book, Touching Wings, Touching Wild.

Ronnie James has been doing wildlife rehab for 30 years. In
1987 she followed her heart to Mendocino and Woodlands Wildlife grew out of a visit to the local veterinary office to look for cat food. She holds both State and Federal licenses to posses wildlife and teach Environmental Education programs, and her clients range from river otters and fawns to eagles and chickadees. Her recently published book Touching Wings, Touching Wild about her wildlife rehab adventures in Mendocino is available from Proceeds go to rescue, heal and release injured or orphaned wildlife.

NOT SO WILD GOOSE CHASE:  I began receiving reports of a tame Canada goose at Van Damme State Park. It was begging for food and flying behind bicyclists and cars as they drove along Highway One--a clear sign that this goose was imprinted, having bonded with the first living thing it saw as it emerged from the egg--in this case a human. It has since grown up not knowing it was a goose. This is a very sad state for any wildlife because it will never know its own kind,  never breed, and it will not know what its wild diet should be, so can never successfully feed itself.

The goose eventually flew north into Mendocino. The people loved it, but its feet were getting bloodied from landing on the asphalt, plus flying  up and down the streets behind cars is really not a safe occupation. It was also getting pretty hungry. Someone finally caught it and brought it to me. I’ve given it a swimming pool and its feet are healed. My guess is that someone raised it as a pet, then discovered that it was expensive to feed and it left pounds of slippery goose droppings around, so they let it loose at the state park thinking it would survive on its own.

I’ve networked with the specialists and learned that if a baby Canada goose is kept confined with wild Canada geese it will grow up with dual imprinting: human and goose, and can be released. But this is an adult, and will not adapt. I’m currently searching for a permanent (confined) situation for the goose. I write this to encourage all of us who find wildlife to please contact a local veterinarian to get a referral or get on the internet and find your closest rehab facility. The good news for this goose, is that it is fat, happy, and alive.