Wild goose chase

I got up early this morning to walk around Como Lake. Except for the very first hint of fall color along the lake, not much was new.

But as I completed my second lap, I noticed the black-capped night heron fishing at the end of the spit. “I wish that goose would get out of the way,” I thought, as I slowly stalked the heron. But the goose wouldn’t budge.

Eventually, the heron took flight—as did the ducks and gulls—but the goose stayed put.

“Excellent! He’s habituated!” I thought as I moved in closer, snapping a few shots. I practically walked up to him and he didn’t bat an eye.

Just then, a flock of geese flew overhead. My buddy trumpeted in return and flapped his wings a bit, but to no avail. In an instant I realized he was injured.

I used to volunteer at a wildlife clinic, so I know how to pick up a wild goose. Sure, his beak might inflict a nasty pinch, but no big deal. I’d experienced that before. I wondered whether I should fetch a blanket from my car or whether I should just walk up to him and grab him.

But the goose seemingly read my thoughts: At that very instant, he slipped into the water and swam away.

Well, that settled it. My philosophy is that if an animal is well enough to escape you, it’s well enough to leave on its own. Chasing him around would only cause the goose more stress and maybe inflict further injury.

But philosophy or no, I can’t stop pondering his fate. Is his wing just sprained? Or is it broken? Will it heal in time for the migration south? Will he find enough to eat? Is it ethical to leave him there, knowing that he can’t fly?

How strange that an unremarkable morning has left me thinking about the Big Questions.

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