Monday, December 10, 2012

An ethical dilemma

Things you ARE allowed to do:
walk/cross country ski/snowshoe/walk the dog/fish from land/
take your college classes there to learn about wetland plants
(that's how I was introduced to this place!).
‘Tis the season to be out of my mind.
Holidays and finals.

So many things are going on, but I HAD to get out of the house yesterday morning to take the dog for a run, and to just not be inside. I live in Schoharie, well really “East Cobleskill”, and I’m just down the road from the town water resevoir which has some nice mown trails and is open to the public for various uses.

My dog, by the way, is a 10 week old golden retriever named “Addie” (Adirondack). She’s a ball of energy and needs to be run everyday to burn some energy! I also was looking for a way to introduce my girl to the blogging community, and this was the perfect entry.

I was walking Addie on leash for a bit, then let her off to work on doing some “recalls” (Addie, come! Good girl!). She’s pretty good at keeping next to me, leash or not. So we’re walking around the edge of one of the retention ponds, and there’s a stand of common reed (even though THAT’S the common name, more people know it by it’s genus: Phragmites [Frag-mite-ees]). This is a horribly invasively plant that takes over wetlands, and creates a monoculture of plant life very quickly. Not good because not very many, if any, animals feed on it or use it as primary cover. Nonetheless, it’s there.

Addie and the phrag.
Just at the end of the stand of phragmites, I found a puddle of feathers. Yup, that’s what it’s called when you find a large pile of feathers, a puddle. I thought that was kind of odd to find so MANY feathers in one spot. Many different types of waterfowl use these retention ponds as a stopover resting spot, and so there are many loose feathers here and there around the edges of the ponds. But this was a large handful in one spot. And while I stood there pondering how this came to be, Addie was in the phrag nosing about frantically. I looked in, while grabbing her by the tail so she didn’t scoot all the way in to where I couldn’t reach her, and so she didn’t fall into the water, and saw a Canada Goose nestled into the dense plants.

At first, I thought it was dead, because it didn’t move or make a sound as Addie was frantically trying to get to it. So, naturally I reached in and grabbed it, and pulled it out. I know, that sounds a little odd, but I’m into this kind of stuff! It didn’t LOOK gross, and there was no smell, and I wanted to look at it up close. And as I pulled it out, it began wheezing, and I noticed it was warm. It became obvious to me that this poor Goose was alive but not well, because a healthy wild animal should not let a human just pick it up without struggle.

I let Addie sniff it all over, but when it didn’t immediately engage her in a game of chase, she lost interest and wandered away to sample some leftover Goose poops. Whatever.

I looked the Goose over, looking for some kind of wound, and found, sadly, a small, perfectly round bullet hole right between the shoulder blades in it’s back. In the picture below, you can see the white ruffled feathers on it’s back- that’s where the hole is.

Addie being a good biologist and pulling the invasive plants out
I’m a bleeding heart, and I can’t stand to see suffering. I didn’t know what to do! I began calling past and present professors on their cell phones (Sorry again to bother you both on a Sunday morning!), and friends who I knew were hunters, especially waterfowl hunters. Everyone told me I had 1 of 3 choices: leave it, kill it myself, or try and get it to a wildlife rehabilitator. There was NO way I could put it out of it’s misery. And that’s where my ethical dilemma comes into play. I wanted so badly to put it out of it’s misery, because it was clearly suffering. Who knows how long it had been ‘existing’ like that. I was told, and I knew this myself, that IF I could get it to a rehabber, the animal would have no quality of life if it was saved. It would be caged and forced to be domestic.

So, I left it. I hoped that it would die sooner rather than later. And I took comfort in the fact that some hungry predator was going to have itself a nice fatty, protein-rich supper that night. I hope.
Please don’t give me flack about this…I couldn’t bear to finish it off (and detailed instructions were texted to me…). Selfish, I know.

What I’m confused about though, is that there is no hunting allowed on the resevoir. This is the town of Cobleskill’s drinking water source, so I’m sure the town doesn’t want lead birdshot landing in the ponds. Plus dead birds. This Goose could barely move. It was struggling to stand, and army crawl back into the weeds. So it couldn’t have flown from somewhere else and landed at the resevoir, in my opinion.

A flock of Canada Geese coming in for a landing.

Poor Goose.


  1. Crappy dilemma and I feel bad for both you and the goose. I don't think I could finish it off either. I think you did the right thing though. It sounds like it was pretty close to the end. Sorry you had to go through that:(


    1. Thanks Bill, for the comfort. And nice to "meet" ya!

  2. Perhaps the goose was able to get to that location before it was in such bad shape. Sort of fly/glide there after being shot? Speaking of "shot" you mention that the town would not want lead shot in the drinking water. It is not legal to hunt waterfowl with lead shot. Most hunters use steel shot but there are other non-toxic options.

    1. Thanks for the clarification JVN, my hunting ignorance and lack of Googling skills are showing through.


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