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August 2009 to December 2009
Choo and Earl Rosenbloom

Mama Goose

Earl and I decided to tell this story from our own perspective to show you how we each experienced the Mama Goose saga.
   CHOO: In early August, we were cruising around a new business complex admiring their lovely landscaping with the pretty ponds and fountains when we spotted a goose with a broken wing. We quickly learned that she had a mate and was a mother to two almost fully fledged goslings. Seeing a goose with a broken wing always fills me with great sadness for our winters are extremely harsh and long with ponds frozen solid for five to six months of the year. Seeing that a mother goose was the one injured filled me with even more sorrow for she would have to be separated from her family in the fall. I wondered if her family would remain with her when the ponds froze. We'd seen that happen many times over the years when mates and families would remain with their injured family member. Such are the noble bonds that hold some geese together. And we had seen how malnourished some of the non-injured mates had become while standing by their family members. They were unable to migrate though they suffered no injury. 

Mama Goose and her family. Papa stands guard behind Mama.
     EARL: In early August, Choo Choo wanted to visit all the ponds in south-west Winnipeg. One of the ponds was at an office park near our home. It is called Tuxedo Business Park. We found a number of geese at this park. Sadly, we also saw a goose with a broken left wing. This goose was part of a family of four. The family consisted of the goose with the broken wing, her gander and two goslings. I am always broken-hearted when we find a goose with a broken wing. It is terrible for a goose not to be able to fly. It is sad for her family. The family will either try to stay with her during the winter (and likely perish) or abandon her. Finally, I know Choo Choo will be talking incessantly for the next five months about this goose and we will be going out in all kinds of weather in a futile attempt to catch this goose. I decided to name the goose Mama Goose  (or MG) and her gander Mr. Mama Goose.
     CHOO: Another concern was MG's fate. There are three rehabilitation centers in and outside of Winnipeg but of the three, only Wildlife Rescue Network (WRN) has an overwintering facility for a very small number of geese. Last year, they had kindly and generously accepted Rahm into their captive flock when we had no where to turn and when she was almost euthanized by Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Center. So with great worry in my heart about MG, I contacted WRN. They advised us to wait till the goslings fledged to find out if MG could fly because they had seen geese with similar breaks fly quite well and it wouldn't be right to separate MG from her family if she could fly. If she couldn't fly, they advised us to capture her as soon as possible and they would squeeze her into their captive flock. You cannot begin to imagine my relief.

     Three weeks went by and MG was with her family every time we visited. Then one rainy day in mid-September, we decided to check on MG to find out if she had flown out with her family. Geese typically do not hang out at ponds on rainy days. When we arrived, there wasn't a single goose at the pond. I was elated. MG must have flown out! However, knowing the tendency of injured geese to conceal themselves when alone to hide from predators, I thought we should drive around to the back of the pond to be sure MG was not there. Alas, as soon as we got there, we spotted MG standing alone. My heart sank. She could not fly and Papa had flown out with their goslings. Poor MG! She was the only goose in the entire complex and she looked so sad.

     I called out to her and placed a pile of grain a few feet from her. She trotted up and was about to nibble on the grain when she backed up,  throwing me a shy and wary glance. "It's okay, Mama," I said gently. "I'm not going to hurt you."  I continued chatting with her in a soft voice, telling her how sorry I was that Papa had flown off with their kids but that they'd be back. I told her to be careful and to at least enjoy the food till her family returned.

     I contacted the rescue again and they advised that we should attempt to capture MG before migration to allow her family to migrate with the other geese. They also advised that we establish a feeding area a fair distance from the shore and not to attempt a capture unless the right opportunity presented itself or we'd end up causing MG undue stress and she'd never get out of the water, which would make capture impossible.

     It was another rainy day a few days later when MG was the only goose in the complex but this time, she was not hiding at the back of the pond. She was standing at the top of the hill overlooking the pond. When I approached, she came up eagerly, though remaining a safe distance from me. I sat on a bench a short distance away and she began to feed. When she was done, she trotted down to the shore and as we watched, she uttered the most mournful sounds we ever heard. She sounded like she was sobbing or crying. Her voice was broken and anguished as she stood alone beside the gray pond while the wind whipped up the waves before her. It was obvious that she was deeply distressed by not being able to fly with her family and by being left all alone. It tore me up inside to listen to her cries.


Mama Goose (MG) all alone one September evening.

     One sunny afternoon a few days later, MG was with some other geese. We were surprised that Papa and her goslings weren't with her on such a warm, sunny day. After feeding, she turned around and began honking while facing north. Suddenly, four geese flew in the direction of the pond and Papa landed right beside MG, honking with great excitement. Their two goslings landed in the pond and ran up to MG's warm welcoming honks. It warmed our hearts to see the affection MG had with her family.

MG was all alone and very sad. Suddenly she got excited. She spotted her family coming back to the pond. It was a very bittersweet moment.

     CHOO: I managed to organize a rescue effort with Claudia, Dennis and Lisa Tretiak volunteering later in September. Unfortunately, MG outran us and we had to abandon the effort as she refused to get out of the pond after the botched attempt. We decided that we needed more volunteers and a better plan.

What a screw up! Choo Choo convinced our friends Dennis, Claudia and Lisa of Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre to try and catch MG. We were supposed to meet at 11:00 am. Dennis, Claudia, Choo and I were there at 11:00 but we did not spot Lisa. We waited at a bench some distance from the pond. At 11:30 Dennis and I decided to walk over to the pond to check where MG was. Both Lisa and MG were there. MG was near a wall. That meant she could be trapped. I screamed at Choo and Claudia to come as fast as possible. By the time they came it was too late. MG figured something bad was happening and she skedaddled. 

     CHOO:  A few days later, we managed to enlist the assistance of three men who worked in the mall. Again, MG outran us! Obviously, we needed more helpers to be successful.

     EARL:Choo Choo convinced 3 total strangers to help catch the geese. I wish I had her moxie. MG ran close to me. I should have caught her.

     CHOO: With October a lot colder than usual, we visited MG nearly everyday and got used to seeing her alone.  In fact, we had begun to take it for granted that she would be there every single day so you can imagine our surprise when there wasn't a single goose at the pond October 8. We drove through the entire complex searching for MG but there was no sign of her and she was missing for the next two days. It's far too early for Winnipeg geese to migrate as they're usually the last geese to go south so I knew she hadn't migrated. But she must be able to fly, I reasoned. From my seven year experience with geese, I knew that a goose that is unable to fly would not walk far from open water. There was plenty of open water in the pond and no MG. So she must have flown off with her family. I felt relieved and wondered if we'd see her again. I missed her but being able to fly allowed her to remain with her family and migrate with them. That was the best possible outcome for my little girl. Deep down, I was also worried that she might have been attacked and killed by a predator and even though Earl always tells me I'm no Pollyanna, I pushed that awful thought out of my mind and just focused on the positive.

     EARL:  MG was gone for three days. Maybe she can fly. Or, maybe a predator got her.

     CHOO:  On the fourth day, Earl asked if I wanted to visit the complex to see if MG was there. I was quite reluctant. After all, she hadn't been there three days in a row. But Earl felt we should check. As soon as we entered the parking lot, there was MG standing beside the pond with her family! Her wing looked better and you can see from the photo below that she had control over it and was able to keep it up close to her body. In the past, her wing hung down all the time. Seeing her look so good made my day. If I was to have one wish granted that day, it would have been to see MG looking well and happy with her family.

     EARL: MG was back. She does look better. Can she fly?


Sunday, October 11 2009: MG (third from left)  with her family after an absence of three days.

     CHOO: Being the skeptic that I am, I was not convinced that MG could fly. I needed to actually see her flying so we began visiting about a half hour before sundown, hoping to see her flying in with her family. If I could see that, I would be the happiest person on earth. Unfortunately, we didn't see her flying at all and we found her alone again with her wing hanging limp October 16. Once again, her family had flown out without her. We were utterly perplexed. The sight of MG alone would ordinarily indicate to us that she could not fly. But we were puzzled by her three day disappearance and her apparently improved wing condition. I wondered if perhaps her wing was not good enough yet for her to fly everyday. I also wondered if she might have over-exerted herself and had grounded herself again.

    She was at the pond alone until October 27 when she vanished for five days. By that time, we realized that we hadn't seen her family since October 18. We will never know what happened to them but there are two possibilities. One, Papa decided to abandon her and he took their goslings to another pond. That seems harsh and unloving but he did have two goslings to care for and being a mature gander he knew they could not survive if they remained over the winter. Two, they could  have fallen victims to hunters. I hoped that hadn't happened to them but I guess we'll never know.

    With MG gone for five days and no sign of her in the entire complex, I wondered if she might have flown south but she returned to the pond November 5. We never saw her family again and I tried unsuccessfully, every week, to organize another rescue team. We just couldn't get more than 4-5 people each time and we needed to have at least 7 or more people so the rescue was put off week after week.

     I also had to change feeding times for MG. Earl and I usually prefer to feed her after lunch but unfortunately, that was also the preference for the other geese who shared the pond with MG. With Papa gone, MG had no protection at all and the other geese chased her off the food. We wanted our girl to be well fed in case she could fly so that she would be better prepared for the long journey south. I decided to visit her in the morning when the other geese had flown out. It was also a good tactic because it allowed me to see if she was flying out. She was there every morning.

     November was unusually warm but the temperature began to get down to normal values (meaning, frigid) by about the third week. The pond began to freeze and MG was there even when the pond was completely frozen with thin ice from the night before. The pond would thaw out a bit during the day and she could drink from it and even bathe in it some days. However, the forecast was for much more severe temps after November 24 with highs in the teens (F). I began to have sleepless nights about MG, worrying about her being stranded, attacked by predators or walking off to who knows where in search of open water. By this time, I had become very attached to her, having cared about her since August.

     On the morning of November 25,  the pond was frozen except for a small section of open water along the shore. I had been breaking up the ice in that area for the past few days to keep it open for MG. There wasn't a single goose. It appeared that all the geese had migrated and I hoped that MG had migrated with them. There was a light layer of snow on the grass and on the frozen pond but no tracks. I decided to return in the afternoon, just in case. Lo and behold, there she was, bathing in the freezing waters and all alone, the last goose left in the complex. I was dismayed. It wasn't a good sign that she was here when the other geese had migrated. I approached her as she was lying down feeding on the corn pile and she got up and ran away from me! I was alarmed at her sudden fear of me. Even though she had always remained a safe distance from me, she had always come running up to me in the past, often honking her greeting to me.

     I was puzzled and worried. Where had she gone to in the morning? Did she fly out? Perhaps she could fly a little but not enough to migrate. Could she fly at all? Could she have walked off somewhere to hide? Never in my seven years of observing geese and observing one as closely as I've observed MG have I been so puzzled.

     After many stressful weeks of failing to get enough people to form a rescue team, I finally managed to get seven people to join us November 29. Even though I had visited the pond, now completely rock frozen, everyday, I hadn't seen MG since November 25. I didn't think she would be there November 29 but there were three stranded geese at the Wilkes pond, two miles away. We had seen them November 28 and they were a pitiful sight, walking on the ice with no water to drink as there hadn't been any snow.
There's no sadder sight than three geese stranded on a frozen pond with no water to drink. If you need a mental image of a frozen wasteland, this has got to be it!

   On November 29, nine of us met at MG's pond but she wasn't there. There were no tracks on the pond or on the ground. We drove to the Wilkes pond and with the help of Susan luring the geese toward an apartment complex, we managed to net two of them. The third goose flew off. Candy, the first goose had a broken wing. She will never be able to fly again. Primary, the other goose, had undeveloped primary feathers. She needs to overwinter in order to regrow her primaries and she should be able to fly next year. Both geese were taken to a sanctuary north of Winnipeg.  So even though MG did not show up to be captured, it was a very successful and satisfying day. 

EARL: It was a big day. We caught two injured geese. However, MG was not there. We will never know what happened to her.

     CHOO: I was still worried about MG and visited the pond the next day (November 30). To our surprise, there were goose tracks all over the frozen pond. My gut told me MG had returned, either the day before  or in the morning. If she had returned in the morning, there would have been no food. Every afternoon, we would leave a pile of grain but deer had been gobbling up all the grain every night. I felt distressed that my little girl was hungry in the frigid weather. I hoped she had flown back to the pond. In desperation, I wrote to Wildlife Rescue Network, imploring them to squeeze MG into their flock if she did show up and couldn't fly. They assured me that they would do that. Their kindness and compassion touched me deeply. 

     EARL: There were goose tracks. However, who knows whether those were MG's?

     CHOO:  November turned to December and the weather turned frigid. By the first week of December, we were experiencing subzero (F) day time highs. Night time temperatures dipped below -20F. Still, I was going to the frozen pond everyday leaving a pile of grain for MG and every night, deer gobbled up the food. There were no new tracks at the pond and with everyday that passed, my hopes of seeing MG faded. Still, something kept me going to the pond everyday to leave grain even though I kept telling myself she would not show up again.

     On the afternoon of December 7, I received a call from Lisa Tretiak of PWRC. She said she had caught MG. What??!! I could not believe my ears. To say that I was speechless and stunned would have been the understatement of the year. I was filled with all kinds of emotions: happiness, joy, relief, shock.

     Lisa said she was at Rothwell Road, which is directly opposite the Tuxedo Business Complex. When Lisa had received a call from someone that there was a goose in the front area of the Direct Transport Company on Rothwell, she immediately thought it had to be MG. She had gone out and after a chase, single-handedly caught MG.  Lisa drove to our house and lifted the blanket off the carrier to show me the goose inside. MG was lying down in the corner looking small and weak but I recognized her by her white facial markings and of course, her wing injury. Lisa then gently carried her in the blanket and placed her in our carrier. I wanted desperately to hug and kiss MG but I knew that would frighten her, after her ordeal of hiding and starving for so many days and then, of being captured. As soon as she saw the grain in my hand, she was pecking at it (and my hand) before I could even place it on the floor of her carrier. That's how starving hungry she was.

    Watch MG videoclips:



December 7, 2009: Finally, MG is safe and sound.
     That evening, we delivered MG to the sanctuary. MG is now living with Rahm, Candy, Primary and the other geese in the sanctuary. 

     We rejoice in MG's safe rescue but we are still getting over the miraculous story of her rescue. Since she vanished November 25, we seriously didn't think we'd see her again and her disappearing acts off and on in October had given us reason to think she could fly and had gone south. And now, here she was, safe in our carrier, in our garage.

     So many things could have gone wrong for her. She could have walked off toward the Fort Whyte Alive ponds which are reasonably close to her pond at the Tuxedo Business Complex. If she had done that, she could have been attacked by predators or starved to death as Fort Whyte Alive has a no-feeding and no-rescue policy for Canada geese on their grounds. Instead, she had  walked across a busy highway  to hide on the compound of a building. There again, her life could have been in jeopardy if the workers had caught her and taken her to Wildlife Haven Rehabilitation Center as they would have euthanized her.
If they had contacted Fort Whyte Alive, they would have been told to leave her alone and "advised" that they should not feed her or she would not fly south! Instead they contacted Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Center, who came to her  rescue. At the end of her ordeal, everything fell into place for her and she ended up safe.

    MG's rescue has given me the greatest joy and it is the highlight of my year. I am so incredibly happy and thankful that she is safe and is in a caring and loving environment. I am immensely grateful and thankful to Prairie Wildlife Rehabilitation Center for rescuing her and for bringing her home to us and to the sanctuary for kindly and generously providing her refuge and tender loving care.

EARL:  On December 7th at about 3:00 pm, the telephone rang. Lisa Tretiak of Prairie Wildlife was on the phone and she wanted to talk to Choo. I was less than thrilled. This surely meant that she needed help catching some injured goose. While I am normally willing to help catch injured wildlife, it was about 70 below outside! I was sure that was why she wanted to talk to Choo rather than me. Choo would never say No. I would come up with some lame excuse (“It is a Jewish holiday”, “I got cancer”, “The car won’t start”). Choo Choo yelled “Lisa caught Mama Goose, Lisa caught Mama Goose!”. Sure enough Lisa came over with Mama Goose. Later that day we transported Mama Goose to McPhillips Animal Hospital to give Mama Goose to the sanctuary.

I am rarely surprised. This shocked me. I was never certain whether MG could fly or not. I suspected not. When MG disappeared I suspected a predator would eventually catch her. Less likely, but possible, she could fly and try to go south. I was sure we would never know her ultimate fate. For MG to be saved at a different location by someone we know is close to a miracle.

This is a wonderful and unexpected result. It gives me hope. If Mama Goose can be saved, I can beat my cancer.